Friday, July 28, 2006

The Wind That Shakes the Barley

(Ireland/Great Britain/Germany/Italy/Spain, 2006, 126 minutes)

In 1920 Ireland, two brothers are caught up in the fight for Irish independence from Britain. Absorbing but ultimately unsuccessful activist period piece that straddles a thin line between politics and melodrama and never finds the right balance. Production values and performances equally excellent.

A Pathé Distribution release. A Sixteen Films/Matador Pictures/Regent Capital/UK Film Council/Bord Scannán na hÉireann/Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen/Element Films/BIM Distribuzione/EMC Produktion/Tornasol Films/Diaphana Distribution/Pathé Distribution/Cinéart/TV3 Ireland/Film Coopi production. Starring Cillian Murphy, Liam Cunningham, Padraic Delaney, Orla Fitzgerald, Myles Horgan, Damien Kearney. Directed by Ken Loach; produced by Rebecca O'Brien; written by Paul Laverty; music by George Fenton; director of photography, Barry Ackroyd; production designer, Fergus Clegg; costume designer, Eimer ni Mhaoldomnaigh; film editor, Jonathan Morris.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Happy Endings

(USA, 2004, 135 minutes)

A number of Los Angelenos find their lives thrown into disarray when the consequences of sex rear their ugly heads. Clever, artful mosaic comedy-drama of modern relationships that is excellently written and performed, but overstays its welcome.

Lions Gate Films presents a Holly Wiersma/Lions Gate Films production. Starring Tom Arnold, Jesse Bradford, Bobby Cannavale, Sarah Clarke, Steve Coogan, Laura Dern, Lisa Kudrow, Jason Ritter, David Sutcliffe; and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Directed and written by Don Roos; produced by Holly Wiersma and Michael Paseornek; director of photography, Clark Mathis; production designer, Richard Sherman; costume designer, Peggy Anita Schnitzer; film editor, David Codron.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

An American Haunting

(Great Britain/Canada/Romania, 2005, 88 minutes)

In early 19th century Tennessee, the eldest daughter of a land-owning family is stalked by a supernatural being who may have been invoked by a neighbor’s resentful curse. Tiresomely hysterical period rehash of The Exorcist that wastes a solid cast and good technical credits in pompous, overblown handling and absurdly amateurish scripting.

Allan Zeman Productions present, in association with Midsummer Films, Remstar Productions, SC Mediapro Pictures and After Dark Films, a Christopher Milburn production, produced with the participation of Super-Écran. Starring Donald Sutherland, Sissy Spacek, James d'Arcy, Rachel Hurd-Wood. Directed by Courtney Solomon; produced by Courtney Solomon, Christopher Milburn and André Rouleau; screenplay by Courtney Solomon, based on the novel «The Bell Witch - An American Haunting» by Brent Monahan; music by Caine Davidson; director of photography, Adrian Biddle; production designer, Humphrey Jaeger; costume designer, Jane Petrie; film editor, Richard Comeau.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

(USA, 2006, 150 minutes)

Down-and-out pirate Jack Sparrow searches across the Caribbean for the key of the chest that may free him from a cursed deal made with the undead pirate Davy Jones, unaware that chest is also wanted by the new man in charge of Port Royal. Ill-advised, thinly-plotted sequel to 2003’s successful comedy-adventure, that gives its cast nothing to work with and seems to believe expensive-looking action setpieces glued together make a movie. They don’t.

Walt Disney Pictures presents, in association with Jerry Bruckheimer Films, a Jerry Bruckheimer production. Starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Stellan Skarsgard, Bill Nighy, Jack Davenport, Kevin R. McNally; and Jonathan Pryce. Directed by Gore Verbinski; produced by Jerry Bruckheimer; screenplay by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, based upon characters created by Elliott, Rossio, Stuart Beattie and Jay Wolpert, and by Walt Disney's themepark ride "Pirates of the Caribbean"; music by Hans Zimmer; director of photography, Dariusz Wolski; production designer, Rick Heinrichs; costume designer, Penny Rose; film editors, Craig Wood and Stephen Rivkin; visual effects supervisor, John Knoll; creature concepts by Crash McCreery; make-up effects created by Ve Neill.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Over the Hedge

(USA, 2006, 83 minutes)

A bunch of hibernating critters wakes up to find their woods turned into a suburban condominium, and a passing raccoon helps them learn how to get their food from the humans — though he has a hidden agenda. Lukewarm animated comedy from a successful comic strip; the gentle satire of suburbia gets somewhat lost in the need for a proper plot, but the voicings are lively enough.

A Paramount Pictures release of a Dreamworks Animation presentation/production. Voiced by Bruce Willis, Garry Shandling, Steve Carell, Wanda Sykes, William Shatner, Nick Nolte, Thomas Haden Church, Allison Janney, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Avril Lavigne, Omid Djalili. Directed by Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick; produced by Bonnie Arnold; screenplay by Len Blum, Lorne Cameron, David Hoselton and Karey Kirkpatrick, based on characters from the comic-strip "Over the Hedge", created by Michael Fry and T Lewis; music by Rupert Gregson-Williams; songs by Ben Folds; production designer, Kathy Altieri; film editor, John K. Carr; visual effects supervisor, Craig Ring.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Nochnoi Dozor

Night Watch

(Russia, 2004, 114 minutes)

In modern-day Moscow, the immortal forces of Light and Darkness keep each other in check... until, one day, a young human boy heeds a mysterious call that may trigger the ultimate battle between good and evil. Lively horror comic most notable for coming from Russia, where it was a record-breaking blockbuster, yet looking as good (and being as trashy and mindless) as anything Hollywood might come up with, with an intriguing undercurrent of dark humour. An enjoyable time-passer.

A Twentieth Century-Fox release. Fox Searchlight Pictures presents, in association with Channel One Russia, a Tabbak Film Company/Bazelevs production. Starring Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Menshov, Valery Zolotukhin, Maria Poroshina, Galina Tunina, Victor Verzhbitsky, Rimma Markova, Alexei Maklakov, Alexander Samoilenko, Zhanna Friske, Ilia Lagutenko, Alexei Chadov, Dima Martynov, Anna Sliu, Anna Dubrovskaya. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov; produced by Anatoly Maximov and Konstantin Ernst; screenplay by Sergei Lukyanenko and Timur Bekmambetov, based on the novel by Sergei Lukyanenko; English screenplay adaptation by Timur Bekmambetov and Laeta Kalogridis; music by Yuri Poteyenko; director of photography, Sergei Trofimov; art directors, Valery Victorov and Mukhtar Mirzakeyev; costumes, Varya Avdyushko; film editor, Dmitri Kiselev; special effects designer, Petr Gorshenin; visual effects supervisor, Vladimir Lezhchinsky; animation design, Rezo Gabriadze.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Me and You and Everyone We Know

(USA/Great Britain/Japan, 2005, 94 minutes)

A struggling performance artist and a newly-separated shoe salesman strike an eccentric, unlikely romance that everything seems to thwart. Wide-eyed, candy-coloured leftfield romantic comedy about modern life.

Celluloid Dreams, IFC Productions and FilmFour present a Gina Kwon production, in co-production with NHK Enterprises. Starring John Hawkes, Miranda July, Miles Thompson, Brandon Ratcliff, Carlie Westerman, Hector Elias, Brad William Henke. Directed and written by Miranda July; produced by Gina Kwon; music by Michael Andrews; director of photography, Chuy Chavez; production designer, Aran Mann; costume designer, Christie Wittenborn; film editors, Andrew Dickler and Charles Ireland.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Break-Up

(USA, 2006, 106 minutes)

Shortly after moving in on a shared flat, an art gallerist breaks up with her loutish tour guide boyfriend, but neither wants to give up the house. Unusual romantic comedy that starts where most genre entries never go but never really takes off because, despite earnest performances, you never see why the leads would want to move in together in the first place; the supporting cast keeps it afloat, but you never get enough of it.

Universal Pictures presents a Wild West Picture Show production. Starring Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston, Joey Lauren Adams, Ann-Margret, Jason Bateman, Judy Davis, Vincent d'Onofrio, Jon Favreau, Cole Hauser, John Michael Higgins, Justin Long. Directed by Peyton Reed; produced by Vince Vaughn and Scott Stuber; screenplay by Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender, from a story by Vince Vaughn, Garelick and Lavender; music by Jon Brion; director of photography, Eric Edwards; production designer, Andrew Laws; costume designer, Carol Oditz; film editors, David Rosenbloom and Dan Lebental.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Poseidon

(USA, 2006, 97 minutes)

A giant ocean liner is capsized by a rogue wave, and a small group of survivors try to find their way out of the topsy-turvy ship. Pointless, soulless but mercifully brief remake of 1972's The Poseidon Adventure that seems to serve no other purpose than a demonstration of state-of-the-art trick effects and lavish production values; one wonders what cast and crew saw in it.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Virtual Studios, a Radiant Production/Next Entertainment/Irwin Allen Productions/Synthesis Entertainment production. Starring Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell; and Richard Dreyfuss; with Emmy Rossum, Jacinda Barrett, Mike Vogel, Mia Maestro, Kevin Dillon, Freddy Rodriguez, Jimmy Bennett, Stacy Ferguson; and Andre Braugher. Directed by Wofgang Petersen; produced by Wolfgang Petersen, Duncan Henderson, Mike Fleiss and Akiva Goldsman; screenplay by Mark Protosevich, from the novel The Poseidon Adventure by Paul Gallico; music by Klaus Badelt; director of photography, John Seale; production designer, William Sandell; costume designer, Erica Edell Phillips; film editor, Peter Honess; visual effects supervisor, Boyd Shermis.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Ieri, Oggi, Domani

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

(Italy/France, 1963, 118 minutes)

Three tales of Italian women. «Adelina»: in order to escape jail time for a minor smuggling affair, a Neapolitan peddler gets pregnant as many times as she possibly can. «Anna»: a wealthy Milanese wife has a weekend drive with a man she is delighted with. «Mara»: a Roman call-girl makes friends with the seminarist next door. Classic Italian comedy at its best in this lively compendium that was a deserved international success, with the two leads showing off their range in all three episodes.

Carlo Ponti presents a Compagnia Cinematografica Champion/Les Films Concordia co-production. Starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni; «Adelina» with Aldo Giuffre', Agostino Salvietti, Lino Mattera; «Anna» with Armando Trovajoli; «Mara» with Tina Pica, Giovanni Ridolfi, Gennaro di Gregorio. Directed by Vittorio de Sica; produced by Carlo Ponti; «Adelina» written by Edoardo de Filippo, with the collaboration of Isabella Quarantotti; «Anna» written by Cesare Zavattini and Billa Billa, based on the novella «Troppo Ricca» by Alberto Moravia; «Mara» written by Cesare Zavattini; music by Armando Trovajoli; director of photography, Giuseppe Rotunno; production designer, Ezio Frigerio; costume designer, Piero Tosi; film editor, Adriana Novelli.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

When a Stranger Calls

(USA, 2006, 84 minutes)

A high school student babysitting at a country house finds herself stalked over the phone by a mysterious stranger who seems to know her every move. Efficient remake of a minor horror classic that effectively keeps only the original’s first third and extends over it a full-length B thriller that does what it is supposed to do without much ado, much helped by a convincing lead and good production values.

Screen Gems presents a Davis Entertainment production. Starring Camilla Belle, Brian Geraghty, Katie Cassidy, David Denman; and Clark Gregg. Directed by Simon West; produced by Ken Lemberger, John Davis and Wyck Godfrey; screenplay by Jake Wade Wall, based on the original screenplay by Steve Feke and Fred Walton; music by James Dooley; director of photography, Peter Menzies Jr.; production designer, Jon Gary Steele; costume designer, Marie Sylvie Deveau; film editor, Jeff Betancourt.