Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Moulin Rouge

(Australia/USA, 2001, 127 minutes)

In 1900 Paris, an aspiring bohemian writer falls madly in love with a courtisane working at the infamous Moulin Rouge night-club. Outrageous, gloriously over-the-top update of classic forties musicals by the makers of the similarly inventive William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, using re-recorded contemporary pop hits to tell the story; the sheer inventiveness and outrageous creativity involved is more than enough to make it worth a look, even if it sacrifices emotion to speed. Winner of the Academy Awards for art direction and costume design; received another six nominations including best picture and best actress (Nicole Kidman).

Twentieth Century-Fox presents a Bazmark production. Starring Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh, and David Wenham. Directed by Baz Luhrmann; produced by Martin Brown, Baz Luhrmann and Fred Baron; written by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce; original score by Craig Armstrong; musical director, Marius de Vries; director of photography, Donald M. McAlpine; production designer, Catherine Martin; costume designers, Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie; film editor, Jill Bilcock; choreographer, John O'Connell.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The World's Fastest Indian

(New Zealand/Japan/Switzerland, 2005, 126 minutes)

The true story of a New Zealand enthusiast who, well into his sixties and diagnosed with angina, travelled all the way to the USA and took the land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats with a home-tuned 1920s Indian Twin Scout motorcycle. Old-fashioned and immensely likeable true-life story carried by a cheerful, emotional lead performance that, despite uneven scripting, would have made a good 1940s big-studio star vehicle; its wholesome, easy-going attitude looks somewhat lost in a more cynical era.

OLC/Rights Entertainment and Tanlay present, in association with the New Zealand Film Production Fund, the New Zealand Film Commission and 3 Dogs and a Pony, a Donaldson-Hannam production. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Diane Ladd, Aaron Murphy. Directed and written by Roger Donaldson; produced by Roger Donaldson and Gary Hannam; music by J. Peter Robinson; director of photography, David Gribble; production designers, J. Dennis Washington (USA) and Rob Gillies (New Zealand); costume designers, Nancy Cavallaro (USA) and Jane Holland (New Zealand); film editor, John Gilbert.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid

(USA, 1973; original theatrical version, 106 min; 1988 Turner Preview version, 121 min; 2005 special edition, 114 min)

Now the sheriff of Lincoln and working for a cattle baron, Pat Garrett is obliged to chase his old friend Billy The Kid on charges of cattle rustling. Lyrical, unusual western whose history of production troubles has often hidden its poignant take on the end of the Wild West. The shooting and editing of the film was fraught with bitter battles between director Sam Peckinpah and MGM head James Aubrey; the theatrically released version was a compromise between the director’s vision and the studio’s demands. Later home video releases have attempted to reconstruct the film to Peckinpah’s original vision, first through a 1988 longer, 121m “preview version” corresponding to the director’s first cut submitted to MGM that became the only “official” version available, then in a 2005 114m “special edition” that attempts to present the film as Peckinpah would have cut it, had he had a longer editing time.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents a Gordon Carroll/Sam Peckinpah production. Starring James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan; also starring Richard Jaeckel, Katy Jurado, Chill Wills, Barry Sullivan; and also starring Jason Robards. Directed by Sam Peckinpah; produced by Gordon Carroll; written by Rudolph Wurlitzer; music by Bob Dylan; director of photography, John Coquillon; art director, Ted Haworth; wardrobe, Michael Butler; film editors, Roger Spottiswoode, Garth Craven, Robert L. Wolfe, Richard Halsey, David Berlatsky, Tony de Zarraga.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

X-Men — The Last Stand

(USA, 2006, 105 minutes)

The discovery of a possible cure for genetic mutations threatens to spark a full-fledged war between renegade mutant Magneto and his crew and the integration-seeking X-Men under professor Xavier. Third episode in the big-screen adaptation of Stan Lee’s comic books, neatly wrapping up any loose ends left by the two previous instalments; as thoughtful and provocative as the predecesssors, but generally less somber, being more focused on the spectacular action setpieces and visual effects to the detriment of the characters' interaction.

Twentieth Century-Fox presents, in association with Marvel Entertainment, a Donners' Company production, produced in association with Ingenious Film Partners, Dune Entertainment and Major Studio Partners. Starring Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones; and Patrick Stewart. Directed by Brett Ratner; produced by Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter and Avi Arad; screenplay by Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn, inspired by the "X-Men" comic-books created by Stan Lee; music by John Powell; director of photography, Dante Spinotti; production designer, Edward Verreaux; costume designer, Judianna Makovsky; film editors, Mark Helfrich, Mark Goldblatt and Julia Wong; visual effects supervisor, John Bruno.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Wild Bunch

(USA, 1969; director's cut, 144 minutes; general release print, 135 minutes)

In 1913 in the US/Mexico border, an aging gang of outlaws finds the strength to go out with a bang. Superb late western that, despite being better known by its relentless, graphic violence, is in fact a poignant, boisterous requiem for the genre and remains squarely within its boundaries. Originally premiered at 144 minutes, the film was cut by 10 minutes at the studio's request so as to allow for more daily screenings, and restored to the original length in 1995.

Warner Bros.-Seven Arts presents a Phil Feldman production. Starring William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O'Brien, Warren Oates; also starring Jaime Sánchez, Ben Johnson. Directed by Sam Peckinpah; produced by Phil Feldman; screenplay by Walon Green and Sam Peckinpah, from a story by Green and Roy N. Sickner; music by Jerry Fielding; director of photography, Lucien Ballard; art director, Edward Carrere; costume supervision, Gordon Dawson; film editor, Louis Lombardo.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Die Hard with a Vengeance

(USA, 1995, 128 minutes)

Police officer John McClane is pitted up against a madman who has scattered bombs all over New York to hide his real target. The third adventure in this action series strives to recapture the freshness and fun of the original, but despite a clever script and many spectacular setpieces it still feels contrived and predictable. Good fun to watch, though, and as always impeccably done.

A Buena Vista International release. Andrew G. Vajna presents a Cinergi Pictures Entertainment production, in association with Twentieth Century-Fox. Starring Bruce Willis, Jeremy Irons, Samuel L. Jackson, Graham Greene, Colleen Camp, Larry Bryggman, Anthony Peck, Nick Wyman, Sam Phillips. Directed by John McTiernan; produced by John McTiernan and Michael Tadross; written by Jonathan Hensleigh, inspired by characters created by Roderick Thorp; music by Michael Kamen; director of photography, Peter Menzies; production designer, Jackson de Govia; film editor, John Wright.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Love's Labour's Lost

(Great Britain/USA, 1999, 90 minutes)

The King of Navarre and three of his courtiers swear off women for three years to devote themselves to study, but their vows are sorely tried when the Princess of France and three of her loveliest handmaids arrive to take care of state affairs. One of Shakespeare’s lesser comedies, much abridged, becomes a whimsical musical revue in the manner of the Astaire & Rogers musicals, set in the 1930s and using classic tunes by Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter et al; but the surprisingly clumsy handling wastes the cast’s game efforts and a few nice script ideas.

Pathé Pictures and Intermedia Films present a Shakespeare Film Company production in association with The Arts Council of England, Le Studio Canal Plus and Miramax Films. Starring Alicia Silverstone, Natascha McElhone, Emily Mortimer, Carmen Ejogo, Richard Clifford, Daniel Hill, Alessandro Nivola, Kenneth Branagh, Matthew Lillard, Adrian Lester, Timothy Spall, Arthur O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Stefania Rocca, Richard Briers, Geraldine McEwan, Jimmy Yuill. Directed and written by Kenneth Branagh, adapting the stage play "Love's Labour's Lost" by William Shakespeare; produced by David Barron and Kenneth Branagh; original music and musical director, Patrick Doyle; director of photography, Alex Thomson; production designer, Tim Harvey; costume designer, Anna Buruma; film editors, Neil Farrell and Don Farrell; choreographer, Stuart Hopps; vocal coach, Ian Adam.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

(USA, 2006, 145 minutes)

An American historian and a French cryptologist try to discover who murdered her grandfather and why, and find out the murder is connected to a centuries-old quest for the Holy Grail. Old-fashioned, disposable potboiler from a wildly successful novel; dull, overlong and in need of a stronger directing hand, enlivened only by a couple of strong performances.

Columbia Pictures and Imagine Entertainment present, in association with Skylark Productions, a Brian Grazer/John Calley production. Starring Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina, Jürgen Prochnow; with Paul Bettany; and Jean Reno. Directed by Ron Howard; produced by Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and John Calley; screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, based upon the novel "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown; music by Hans Zimmer; director of photography, Salvatore Totino; production designer, Allan Cameron; costume designer, Daniel Orlandi; film editors, Daniel Hanley and Mike Hill; visual effects supervisor, Angus Bickerton.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Wassup Rockers

(USA, 2005, 111 minutes)

A day out skating in Beverly Hills turns into an unexpected ordeal for a group of Latino skateboarders from South Central Los Angeles. Basically an updated “problem picture” on subcultures and racial inequalities in modern-day L.A., with a strong documentary flavour and a cast of (not very talented) non-professionals essentially playing themselves; it only really picks up in its strong second half.

Henry Winterstern presents a Glass Key/Dual Films production. Introducing Jonathan Velásquez, Francisco Pedrasa, Milton Velásquez, Usvaldo Panameno, Eddie Velásquez, Luis Rojas Salgado, Carlos Ramirez. Directed and written by Larry Clark, from a story by Clark and Matthew Frost; produced by Larry Clark, Kevin Turen and Henry Winterstern; music by Harry Cody; director of photography, Steve Gainer; production designer, John de Meo; costume designer, Maryam Malakpour; film editor, Alex Blatt.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

L'Ivresse du pouvoir

A Comedy of Power

(France/Germany, 2005, 110 minutes)

A ruthless investigative judge takes on a delicate corporate governance case that may have political ramifications. Sparkling black comedy of modern politics, allegedly inspired by a real-life affair, whose sly wit is very typical of its director.

A Pan-Européenne of a Wild Bunch presentation Patrick Godeau presents an Alicéleo/France 2 Cinéma/Ajoz Films/Integral Film production, with the participation of Canal Plus and Cinécinéma. Starring Isabelle Huppert, François Berléand, Patrick Bruel, Robin Renucci, Maryline Canto, Thomas Chabrol. Directed by Claude Chabrol; produced by Patrick Godeau; written by Odile Barski and Claude Chabrol; music by Matthieu Chabrol; director of photography, Eduardo Serra; art director, Françoise Benoît-Fresco; costume designer, Mic Cheminal; film editor, Monique Fardoulis.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Hills Have Eyes

(USA, 2006, 105 minutes)

A holidaying family gets stuck in the New Mexico desert at the mercy of a savage group of cannibal mutants. Brutal yet striking slasher pic remaking a 1977 cult classic with added blood and guts and none-too-subtle political comment; definitely not for the squeamish, but well above the average for this sort of genre picture.

A Twentieth Century-Fox release. Fox Searchlight Pictures presents a Craven-Maddalena Films/Peter Locke production, made in association with Dune Entertainment and Major Studio Partners. Starring Aaron Stanford, Kathleen Quinlan, Vinessa Shaw, Emilie de Ravin, Dan Byrd, Tom Bower, Billy Drago, Robert Joy; and Ted Levine. Directed by Alexandre Aja; produced by Wes Craven, Marianne Maddalena and Peter Locke; screenplay by Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur, based on Wes Craven's film "The Hills Have Eyes"; music by TomandAndy; director of photography, Maxime Alexandre; production designer, Joseph Nemec III; costume designer, Danny Glicker; film editor, Baxter; special make-up effects by Gregory Nicotero and Howard Berger.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Innocence

(France/Great Britain/Belgium, 2004, 116 minutes)

A year in a secluded boarding school for young girls who are never told why they are there or what are they being trained for. Opaque and oblique fantasy that shows undeniable traces of talent but remains mystifyingly resistant to any sort of explanation or analysis.

Ex Nihilo presents a film produced by Patrick Sobelman, in co-production with Les Ateliers de Baere, Bluelight, the UK Film Council, Love Streams Productions and Gimages Films, with the participation of Kinétique, Canal Plus, Cofimage 15, Centre National de la Cinématographie, Région Wallone and Wallimage. Starring Zoë Auclair, Léa Bridarolli, Bérangère Haubruge, with Marion Cotillard, Hélène de Fougerolles. Directed and written by Lucile Hadzihalilovic, based on the novella "Mine-Haha" by Frank Wedekind; produced by Patrick Sobelman; director of photography, Benoît Debie; production designer, Arnaud de Moléron; costume designer, Laurence Benoît; film editor, Adam Finch; choreographer, Pedro Pauwels.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Movimentos Perpétuos - Cine-Tributo a Carlos Paredes

(Portugal, 2006, 68 minutes)

A documentary on the late Portuguese guitarist Carlos Paredes, interspersing archival footage and sound of his performances and interviews with visual improvisations on his music. Elaborate arthouse piece that doubles as a genuinely revealing documentary on its subject while keeping in check its director’s usual out-there experimental trappings.

A Lusomundo release. A Corda Seca production, supported by ICAM, Instituto das Artes and :2. Featuring interviews with Malangatana, Rui Vieira Nery, José Jorge Letria, José Carlos Vasconcelos, Novo de Matos, José Manuel Oliveira, Alfredo de Matos, Avelino Tavares, Paulo Rocha. Directed, photographed and manipulated by Edgar Pêra; produced by João Pinto Sousa; research by Cláudia Gavinho; film editors, Pedro Machado and Luís Henriques.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

L'Enfant

(Belgium/France, 2005, 97 minutes)

A young petty thief sells his newborn baby for a tidy sum of money, but struggles to get it back once he realises his mistake. Intense, harrowing coming-of-age social melodrama shot with its directors’ usual documentary flair; their second Palme d'Or at Cannes after Rosetta (1999).

A Diaphana Distribution release. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne and Denis Freyd present a Les Films du Fleuve/Archipel 35/RTBF/Scope Invest/ARTE France Cinéma production, with the support of Centre du Cinéma et de l'Audiovisuel de la Communauté Française de Belgique, Télédistributeurs Wallons, Eurimages, Programme Media Plus de la Communauté Européenne and Loterie Nationale de Belgique, with the participation of Canal Plus, Centre Nationale de la Cinématographie, Wallimages, Région Wallonne and Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral Belge. Starring Jérémie Renier, Déborah François, Jérémie Segard, Fabrizio Rongione; and the participation of Olivier Gourmet. Directed and written by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne; produced by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne and Denis Freyd; director of photography, Alain Marcoen; production designer, Igor Gabriel; costume designer, Monic Parelle; film editor, Marie-Hélène Dozo.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Mission: Impossible III

(USA/Germany, 2006, 124 minutes)

IMF agent Ethan Hunt goes rogue to save his fiancee from the hands of a merciless arms dealer. Third in the series of star vehicles based on the 1960s spy TV series is a welcome if flawed attempt to give emotional resonance to what is essentially a succession of daring action setpieces; the star hinders as much as it helps a script that doesn’t seem to have been developed enough.

Paramount Pictures presents a Cruise-Wagner production, in association with MI 3 Film. Starring Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Billy Crudup, Michelle Monaghan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell, Maggie Q, and Laurence Fishburne. Directed by J. J. Abrams; produced by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner; screenplay by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and J. J. Abrams, based on the TV series Mission: Impossible created by Bruce Geller; music by Michael Giacchino; director of photography, Dan Mindel; production designer, Scott Chambliss; costume designer, Colleen Atwood; film editors, Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Mackey; visual effects supervisor, Roger Guyett.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Pele

(Portugal, 2005, 100 minutes)

In 1970s Lisbon, the daughter of a wealthy entrepreneur realises that she will never be fully accepted by her peers and by society because of her mixed-blood heritage. An interesting period melodrama and some good acting and period reconstruction is sadly wasted in anonymous, uninspired handling and rote, by-the-book scripting.

An FBF Filmes release. A David & Golias production, financially supported by ICAM and Ministério da Cultura, co-financed by RTP and FBF Filmes. Starring Daniela Costa, Manuel Wiborg, Francisco Nascimento, Fernanda Lapa, Filipe Ferrer, Núria Madruga, Carla Bolito, António Pedro Cerdeira, Paulo Filipe. Directed by Fernando Vendrell; produced by Catarina Fortes and Fernando Vendrell; screenplay by Carla Baptista, based on the novel by Henrique Galvão; music by Hipnótica; original songs by J. P. Simões and Sérgio Costa; director of photography, Mario Masini; art director, Rosa Freitas; film editors, José Nascimento and Pedro Marques.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Aristocrats

(USA, 2005, 87 minutes)

An investigation into the story and the appeal of “The Aristocrats”, an off-colour “classic” joke that is usually performed more within comedian circles than in front of paying audiences, through interviews with and retellings of the joke by American and English stand-up comedians. The joke itself is only as funny as its performance, so this intriguing, dynamic documentary uses it as a window into the world of stand-up comedy, though along the way it devolves simply into a collection of variations; also, its interest is restricted to Anglo-American comedy buffs, since most of the comedians interviewed or contributing retellings will be unknown outside the US.

Thinkfilm presents a Mighty Cheese production. Directed by Paul Provenza; produced by Peter Adam Golden; music by Gary Stockdale; film editors, Emery Emery and Paul Provenza.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Mary

(Italy/France/USA, 2005, 87 minutes)

An actress shooting a film about Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem undergoes a spiritual transformation and abandons her career; a year later, as the film is about to open in New York, a TV journalist investigating modern religion has his own spiritual crisis. Thought-provoking melodrama whose loose, unfinished structure actually works in favour of its interrogation of spirituality, carried by strong acting.

Fernando Sulichin and Roberto de Nigris present a De Nigris/Central Films production in association with Pan-Européenne Productions, with the participation of Associated Filmmakers and Wild Bunch. Starring Juliette Binoche, Forest Whitaker, Matthew Modine, and Heather Graham; with Stefania Rocca; and the participation of Marion Cotillard. Directed by Abel Ferrara; produced by Fernando Sulichin and Roberto de Nigris; written by Simone Lageoles, Mario Isabella and Abel Ferrara; music by Francis Kuipers; director of photography, Stefano Favilene; production designer, Frank de Curtis; costume designers, Frank de Curtis and Silvia Nebiolo; film editors, Fabio Nunziata and Langdon G. Page.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The New World

(USA, 2005, 135 minutes)

English colonists arrive in Virginia in 1607; while on a reconaissance party, one of them is taken prisoner by the native American tribe living nearby but spared by the good will of the chief’s daughter, and an unexpected and unlikely passion is born. Sweeping, heartbreaking retelling of the birth of the American nation by a fiercely individual and idiossyncratic director; as close to pure cinema as it gets. The version initially premiered in the US in December 2005, in time to qualify for the Academy Awards, ran 150 minutes; claiming he wasn’t entirely happy with the original length, director Terrence Malick excised a further 15 minutes, this shorter version having been released in Europe as well as in the US.

A New Line Cinema presentation. Starring Colin Farrell, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale, August Schellenberg, Wes Studi, David Thewlis, Yorick van Wageningen; and introducing Q’Orianka Kilcher. Directed and written by Terrence Malick; produced by Sarah Green; music by James Horner; director of photography, Emmanuel Lubezki; production designer, Jack Fisk; costume designer, Jacqueline West; film editors, Richard Chew, Hank Corwin, Saar Klein and Mark Yoshikawa.