Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mån som Hatar Kvinnor

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

(Sweden/Germany/Denmark, 2009, 151 minutes)

A disgraced investigative journalist and a troubled hacker get together to solve the mysterious disappearance of an industrialist's niece 40 years earlier. Handsome but overlong and somewhat jumbled thriller much condensed from a best-selling novel, unraveling in the last reel once the central mystery has been solved; the sort of thing Hollywood once knew how to do and now is essentially upscale cable TV fare. Not surprisingly, it was made for TV as two feature-length episodes re-edited into one big-screen feature.

A Yellow Bird presentation/production, in co-production with ZDF Enterprises, Sveriges Television, Nordisk Film and ZDF, in association with Filmpool Stockholm Mälardalen, Film i Väst and Spiltan Underhållning; with the support of the Swedish Film Institute, Nordisk Film & TV Fund and the Danish Film Institute. Starring Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Sven-Bertil Taube, Peter Haber, Peter Andersson, Marika Lagercrantz, Ingvar Hirdwall, Ewa Fröling, Björn Granath, Lena Endre. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev; produced by Søren Stærmose; screenplay by Rasmus Heisterberg, Nikolaj Arcel, based on the novel by Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; music by Jacob Groth; director of photography (Nordisk Film, widescreen), Eric Kress; production designer, Niels Sejer; costume designer, Cilla Rörby; film editors, Anne Osterud, Janus Billekov Jansen. 

Saturday, September 26, 2009

District 9

(New Zealand/South Africa/USA, 2009, 108 minutes)

Twenty years after a broken-down spaceship has come to a standstill above Johannesburg, the alien population has been corralled inside a suburban slum by a racist, abusive population, and a cowardly bureaucrat finds himself at the flashpoint of alien-human relationships. Smart, propulsive B-level sci-fi thriller with a small budget and big ideas.

A Tristar Pictures/QED International release. Peter Jackson presents, in association with Tristar Pictures and Block/Hanson, a Wingnut Films production; produced in association with the Department of Trade and Industry of South Africa. Starring Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James, Vanessa Haywood, Mandla Gaduka, Kenneth Nkosi, Eugene Kumbaniywa, Louis Minnaar, William Allen Young. Directed by Neill Blomkamp; produced by Peter Jackson, Carolynne Cunningham; written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell; music by Clinton Shorter; director of photography (Park Road), Trent Opaloch; production designer, Philip Ivey; costume designer, Dianna Celliers; film editor, Julian Clarke. 

Friday, September 25, 2009

Chi Bi

Red Cliff

(international version: China/Japan/South Korea/Hong Kong, 2009, 146 minutes)

During the Han Dynasty, struggling general Liu Bei and Sun Quan, the lord of the Southlands, rise up together against the Emperor's power-hungry, ruthless general Cao Cao. Impressive war epic that bridges Eastern traditions and sensibilities and Western-style epic filmmaking with a strong, steady, kinetic hand very typical of its director; a little more substance in between the battle scenes wouldn't come amiss, though. The version reviewed is the 146-minute international cut, edited by Woo himself from the original Chinese version, released as two 150-minute parts.

China Film Group Corporation, Avex Entertainment, Chengtian Entertainment, CMC, Showbox, John Woo present a Lion Rock production. Starring Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Chang Chen, Zhao Wei, Hu Jun; special appearance, Shidou Nakamura; introducing Chiling Lin. Directed by John Woo; produced by Terence Chang and John Woo; written by John Woo, Chan Khan, Kuo Cheng, Sheng Heyu; music by Taro Iwashiro; directors of photography (Cinelabs/Technicolor Beijing, widescreen), Lu Yue, Zhang Li; production and costume designer, Tim Yip; film editors, David Wu, Angie Lam, Yang Hong Yu; visual effects supervisor, Craig Hayes. 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

O Sangue

(Portugal, 1989, 95 minutes)

After the death of their father, a young man tries and fails to protect his teenage brother. Dreamily stylized, pictorial melodrama whose unintelligible narrative is more than made up for by the breathtaking handling and photography.

An Atalanta Filmes (original 1990 release)/Midas Filmes (2009 re-release) release. A Trópico Filmes presentation/production; financially supported by Instituto Português de Cinema, with the financial participation of RTP and Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian. Starring Pedro Hestnes, Nuno Ferreira, Inês Medeiros, Luís Miguel Cintra. Directed and written by Pedro Costa; director of photography (b&w), Martin Schäfer; wardrobe, Rita Lopes Alves; film editor, Manuela Viegas. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

Séraphine

(France/Belgium, 2008, 126 minutes)

The true story of Séraphine Louis, a slow-witted but gifted painter from early 20th century rural France who survived as a housemaid and was discovered by German art critic Wilhelm Uhde. Quiet, austere biopic that struck a chord with French audiences but, despite the strong performances, fails to ellicit the rapture it seeks.

A Diaphana Distribution (in France) release. A TS Productions presentation/production, in co-production with France 3 Cinéma, Climax Films, RTBF; with the contribution of Centre National de la Cibématographie and the support of Région Île-de-France; with the participation of Canal Plus, Cinécinéma, TV5 Monde; produced with the support of Centre du Cinéma et de l'Audiovisuel de la Communauté Française de Belgique and Télédistributeurs Wallons; with the support of Sofica La Banque Postale Image and Soficinéma 3. Starring Yolande Moreau, Ulrich Tukur, Anne Bennent. Directed by Martin Provost; produced by Miléna Poylo and Gilles Sacuto; written by Martin Provost and Marc Abdelnour; music by Michael Galasso; director of photography (GTC), Laurent Brunet; production designer, Thierry François; costume designer, Madeline Fontaine; film editor, Ludo Troch.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Hurt Locker

(USA, 2008, 129 minutes)

The daily routine of a bomb disposal unit at work daily in Baghdad during the Iraq war. Observational, impressionistic study of men at war disguised as a visceral, thrilling action movie that pointedly refuses to take any political sides.

Voltage Pictures presents, in association with Grosvenor Park Media and FCEFSA, a Voltage Pictures/First Light Production/Kingsgate Films production. Starring Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Christian Camargo, Evangeline Lilly; with Ralph Fiennes, David Morse; and Guy Pearce. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow; produced by Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier, Greg Shapiro; written by Mark Boal; music by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders; director of photography (Soho Images), Barry Ackroyd; production designer, Karl Júlíusson; costume designer, George Little; film editors, Bob Murawski, Chris Innis.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Taking Woodstock

(USA, 2009, 119 minutes)

In August 1969, a confused young man trying to save his parent's Catskills motel from bankruptcy ends up being responbile for bringing the Woodstock music festival to town. Amiable but rambling and unfocused coming-of-age comedy based on a real-life memoir that has some nice moments but never really resolves itself.

A Focus Features International release of a Focus Features presentation/production, produced in association with Twins Financing. Starring Demetri Martin, Dan Fogler, Henry Goodman, Jonathan Groff, Eugene Levy, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Imelda Staunton; with Emile Hirsch; and Liev Schreiber. Directed by Ang Lee; produced by James Schamus, Ang Lee, Celia Costas; screenplay by James Schamus, based on the book by Elliot Tiber with Tom Monte, Taking Woodstock; music by Danny Elfman; director of photography (DeLuxe), Éric Gautier; production designer, David Gropman; costume designer, Joseph G. Aulisi; film editor, Tim Squyres. 

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Esperança Está Onde Menos se Espera

(Portugal, 2009, 123 minutes)

A well-off teenager is forced to move to a problem high school after his soccer coach father is fired for being honest and is unable to find a new job. Well-done but derivative melodrama whose director is clearly interested in exploring areas the soap-opera-level script doesn't want to go.

A ZON Lusomundo release. Tino Navarro presents a MGN Filmes production, in co-production with RTP; with the participation of ZON Lusomundo; with the investment of FICA; with the support of ICA. Starring Carlos Nunes, Virgílio Castelo, Alcídia Vaz, José Carlos Cardoso, Ana Padrão. Directed by Joaquim Leitão; produced by Tino Navarro; written by Tino Navarro, Manuel Arouca; music by Luís Cília; director of photography (Tobis, widescreen), José António Loureiro; art director, João Torres; costume designer, Filipe Faísca; film editor, Pedro Ribeiro. 

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Push

(USA, 2009, 110 minutes)

A group of mutants with off-the-chart psychic powers band together to defeat the sinister government agency that wants to control them. Lively B-series comic-book, smartly handled.

Summit Entertainment presents, in association with Icon Productions, an Infinity Features Entertainment/Icon Productions production. Starring Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, Camilla Belle, Cliff Curtis; and Djimon Hounsou. Directed by Paul McGuigan; produced by Bruce Davey, William Vince, Glenn Williamson; written by David Bourla; music by Neil Davidge; director of photography (DeLuxe, Panavision), Peter Sova; production designer, François Séguin; costume designers, Nina Proctor, Laura Goldsmith; film editor, Nicolas Trembasiewicz; visual effects supervisor, Kent Houston.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Três Menos Eu

(Portugal/France, 1987, 84 minutes)

Two girls fight over the attentions of a young man during a summer vacation. Intriguing but unresolved melodrama of teenage crushes whose interest lies mainly in its quasi improvisational feel.

Paulo Branco and Paulo de Sousa present a Filmargem/Les Films du Passage co-production; financially supported by Instituto Português de Cinema. Starring Rita Blanco, Anne Gautier; Pedro Hestnes Ferreira, João Cabral, Isabel de Castro. Directed by João Canijo; written by João Canijo, Paulo Tunhas; music by José Mário Branco; director of photography (colour), José Luís Carvalhosa; production and costume designer, Maria José Branco; film editor, Sabine Franel. 

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Uma Rapariga no Verão

(Portugal, 1986, 80 minutes)

A confused young girl leaves the boyfriend who pines for her but they seem to be unable to get away from each other. No-budget drama shot in 16mm, barely released at the time of its production and as confused as its main characters; more interesting as a time capsule of the visual and narrative strategies of the mid 1980s than as a feature in its own right.

A Trópico Filmes presentation/production; subsidised by Instituto Português do Cinema and Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian; with the financial participation of RTP. Starring Isabel Galhardo, Diogo Dória; José Manuel Mendes, Joaquim Leitão, João Perry. Directed and written by Vítor Gonçalves; music by Andrew Poppy; director of photography (colour, 16mm), Daniel del Negro; additional photography, Mário de Carvalho; wardrobe, Pedro Costa, Paula Ferreira; film editor, Ana Luísa Guimarães.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Other Man

(Great Britain, 2008, 86 minutes)

A distraught man finds out his wife had a lover and sets out to learn who he is. Intriguing but ultimately flawed drama whose handsome style, intriguing premise and solid acting go a long way towards redressing a flimsy script.

Ealing Studios presents a Rainmark Films production in association with Gotham Productions. Starring Liam Neeson, Antonio Banderas, Laura Linney, Romola Garai; Craig Parkinson. Directed by Richard Eyre; produced by Frank Doelger, Richard Dreyer, Tracey Scoffield; screenplay by Richard Eyre and Charles Wood, based on the story by Bernhard Schlink, The Other Man; music by Stephen Warbeck; director of photography (DeLuxe, Panavision), Haris Zambarloukos; production designer, Gemma Jackson; costume designers, Consolata Boyle, Phoebe de Gaye; film editor, Tariq Anwar. 

Friday, September 11, 2009

What Doesn't Kill You

(USA, 2008, 99 minutes)

A smalltime South Boston criminal finds himself torn between continuing to scrape for a living or going straight and providing for his family. Earnest but dull true-life crime drama.

A Yari Film Group Releasing release. Yari Film Group presents a Bob Yari Productions/Battleplan Productions production. Starring Mark Ruffalo, Ethan Hawke, Amanda Peet; Will Lyman, Brian Goodman; and Donnie Wahlberg. Directed by Brian Goodman; produced by Bob Yari, Marc Frydman and Rod Lurie; written by Brian Goodman, Donnie Wahlberg, Paul T. Murray; music by Alex Wurman; director of photography (DeLuxe, widescreen), Chris Norr; production designer, Henry Dunn; costume designer, Roemehl Hawkins; film editor, Robert Hoffman. 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Los Abrazos Rotos

Broken Embraces

(Spain/USA, 2009, 127 minutes)

A blind screenwriter is confronted with a tragic affair of his past when he learns of the death of the powerful financier who produced the last film he ever directed. Noir melodrama of passion and jealousy that is exquisitely handled and presented but whose convoluted scripting and time-shifting brings to the table nothing its director hasn't explored previously.

A Focus Features International release. An El Deseo presentation/production, in association with Universal Pictures International, ICAA; with financial support from Instituto de Crédito Oficial; with the participation of TVE and Canal Plus España. Starring Penélope Cruz, Lluís Homar, Blanca Portillo, José Luis Gómez, Rubén Ochandiano, Tamar Novas; and Angela Molina; with the participation of Chus Lampreave and Kiti Manver. Directed and written by Pedro Almodóvar; produced by Agustín Almodóvar, Esther García; music by Alberto Iglesias; director of photography (Fotofilm Deluxe, widescreen), Rodrigo Prieto; art director, Antxon Gómez; costume designer, Sonia Grande; film editor, José Salcedo.

Friday, September 04, 2009

35 Rhums

35 Shots of Rum

(France/Germany, 2008, 102 minutes)

A widowed tube driver and his college student daughter lead a quiet, happy life but start chafing at its limits. Moody, endearing slice-of-life melodrama where nothing much seems to happen, but a lot actually takes place.

A Wild Bunch (in France)/Elle Driver (int'l) release. Soudaine Compagnie presents a Soudaine Compagnie/ARTE France Cinéma/Pandora Film Produktion production, in association with WDR/ARTE, Cofinova 4 and Soficinéma 4; with the participation of Canal Plus, TPS Star, Centre National de la Cinématographie and Filmförderungsanstalt; supported by Eurimages, Région Île-de-France and Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein. Starring Alex Descas, Mati Diop, Nicole Dogué, Grégoire Colin, Julieth Mars, Adèle Ado, Jean-Christophe Folly; guest starring Ingrid Caven. Directed by Claire Denis; produced by Bruno Pésery, Karl Baumgartner, Christoph Friedel, Claudia Steffen; written by Claire Denis and Jean-Pol Fargeau; music by Tindersticks; director of photography (Eclair), Agnès Godard; production designer, Arnaud de Moleron; costume designer, Judy Shrewsbury; film editor, Guy Lecorne. 

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

(USA, 2009, 103 minutes)

A New York subway train is hijacked by a gang of gunmen who demand a $10 million ransom from the City Hall. Unhappy remake of a fondly remembered B-thriller that cleverly updates the plot but then lets the director's trademark flashy visuals loose in a story that doesn't really need them. The acting and production values somehow survive.

Columbia Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures present, in association with Relativity Media, a Scott Free/Escape Artists production. Starring Denzel Washington, John Travolta; John Turturro, Luis Guzmán, Michael Rispoli; and James Gandolfini. Directed by Tony Scott; produced by Todd Black, Tony Scott, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch; screenplay by Brian Helgeland, based on the novel by John Godey, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3; music by Harry Gregson-Williams; director of photography (DeLuxe prints, Panavision), Tobias Schliessler; production designer, Chris Seagers; costume designer, Renée Ehrlich Kalfus; film editor, Chris Lebenzon.