Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Wicker Man

(USA/Germany, 2006, 101 minutes)

A shellshocked policeman is asked by a former flame, now living in a closeted, matriarchal island community, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her daughter. Ill-judged remake of the eponymous British cult classic of the 1970s; the plot remains unchanged and works for most of its length as a thriller in the mould of The Lady Vanishes, but the ending is so clumsily handled that the film simply drowns.

Millennium Films presents a Saturn Films/Emmett-Furla Films production for Equity Pictures Medienfonds and Nu Image Entertainment. Starring Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, Kate Beahan, Frances Conroy, Molly Parker, Leelee Sobieski. Directed by Neil LaBute; produced by Nicolas Cage, Norm Golightly, Randall Emmett, Avi Lerner, Boaz Davidson, John Thompson; screenplay by Neil LaBute, based on the original screenplay by Anthony Shaffer for Robin Hardy's 1973 film The Wicker Man, based on the novel Ritual by David Pinner; music by Angelo Badalamenti; director of photography, Paul Sarossy; production designer, Phillip Barker; costume designer, Lynette Meyer; film editor, Joel Plotch.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Stranger than Fiction

(USA, 2006, 111 minutes)

A Chicago tax inspector finds out he is a character in a blocked writer’s next novel — and that she’s planning to kill him off. Delightfully inventive comedy that doesn’t take its surrealist premise all the way but still provides unusually thought-provoking entertainment.

Columbia Pictures and Mandate Pictures presents a Three Strange Angels production. Starring Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Emma Thompson, Tony Hale, Tom Hulce, Linda Hunt. Directed by Marc Forster; produced by Lindsay Doran; written by Zach Helm; music by Britt Daniel and Brian Reitzell; director of photography (DeLuxe prints), Roberto Schaefer; production designer, Kevin Thompson; costume designer, Frank Fleming; film editor, Matt Chesse; visual effects supervisor, Kevin Tod Haug.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Blood Diamond

(USA, 2006, 138 minutes)

At the height of the local Civil War, a Sierra Leone fisherman displaced by the bloodthirsty rebels and a South African diamond smuggler join forces to retrieve a huge diamond that may mean a way out of hell for both of them. Powerful actioner with a conscience, setting a fictional story against harrowing real-life events and brilliantly managing to be a first-rate adventure while avoiding well-meaning but mawkish earnestness.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Virtual Studios, a Spring Creek/Bedford Falls production, in association with Initial Entertainment Group; made with the assistance of the Department of Trade and Industry of South Africa; in association with Lonely Film Productions. Starring Leonardo di Caprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou, Jimi Mistry, Michael Sheen, Arnold Vosloo. Directed by Edward Zwick; produced by Paula Weinstein, Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz, Graham King, Gillian Gorfill; screenplay by Charles Leavitt, based on a story by Charles Leavitt and C. Gaby Mitchell; music by James Newton Howard; director of photography, Eduardo Serra; production designer, Dan Weil; costume designer, Ngila Dickson; film editor, Steven Rosenblum.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Anche Libero Va Bene

(Italy, 2006, 108 minutes)

An 11-year old boy finds it hard to grow up in a struggling Roman family where the mother has left for no good reason and the father is prone to fits of discipline. Family melodrama, well enough done but without any distinguishing features.

A 01 Distribution release. A RAI Cinema/Palomar production. Starring Alessandro Morace, Barbora Bobulova, Marta Nobili, Kim Rossi Stuart. Directed by Kim Rossi Stuart; produced by Carlo Degli Esposti, with Giorgio Magliulo, Andrea Costantini; written by Linda Ferri, Federico Starnone, Francesco Giammusso, Kim Rossi Stuart; music by Banda Osiris; director of photography, Stefano Falivene; production designer, Stefano Giambanco; costume designer, Sonoo Mishra; film editor, Marco Spoletini.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Strings

(Denmark/Sweden/Great Britain/Norway, 2004, 91 minutes)

The prince of a mythical kingdom is misled by his scheming uncle into believing a rival tribe has killed his father, and sets out to avenge him, leaving the throne open to a power grab. Odd animated fantasy entirely done using string puppets; very handsomely done and technically very impressive, cleverly integrating the manipulating strings into the plotline, but severely underscripted, far too serious for children and too slight for grown-ups.

A Bald Film presentation/production, in co-production with Zentropa Entertainments5, Nordisk Film Production, Sandrew Metronome Danmark, Mainstream, Radar Film, Bob Film Sweden and Film & Music Entertainment; in collaboration with DR and Invicta Capital; with support from Danish Film Institute, Swedish Film Institute, Norwegian Film Fund, Sveriges Television-SVT Fiktion, NRK and Nordic Film- & TV Fund. With the voices of James McAvoy, Derek Jacobi, Catherine McCormack, Julian Glover, Ian Hart, Claire Skinner, David Harewood, Samantha Bond, Michael Culkin, Alexandra Knapp, Oliver Golding, Nigel Hoyle, Andrew Kiernan, Alex Jennings, Malena Kristian. Directed by Anders Rønnow Klarlund; produced by Niels Bald; screenplay by Naja Marie Aidt, based on a story by Aidt and Anders Rønnow Klarlund; music by Jørgen Lauritsen; master puppeteer, Bernd Ogrodnik; chief puppet builder, Joakim Zacho Weylandt; directors of photography (Soho Images, Digitalscope), Kim Hattesen and Jan Weincke; production designer, Sven Wichmann; costume designer, Ingrid Søe; film editor, Leif Axel Kjeldsen; visual effects supervisor, Daniel Silwerfeldt.

Chaos

(Canada/Great Britain, 2005, 106 minutes)

A suspended police detective is reinstated and assigned a rookie partner to handle a hostage situation during a bank heist that turns out to be an elaborate hoax to disguise what seems like personal revenge. Clever little programmer with an ingenious if overstretched premise.

Mobius International presents a Chaotic Productions/Chaotic Films UK production, in association with Mobius Entertainment and Michael Pierce-Mark Williams Entertainment. Starring Jason Statham, Ryan Phillippe; and Wesley Snipes; Justine Waddell, Nicholas Lea, Damon Johnson, Jessica Steen; with Henry Czerny. Directed and written by Tony Giglio; produced by Huw Penalt Jones, Gavin Wilding and Michael Derbas; music by Trevor Jones; director of photography, Richard Greatrex; production designer, Chris August; costume designer, Bobbie Read; film editor, Sean Barton.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Scoop

(Great Britain / USA, 2006, 94 minutes)

During a magic show, a dead journalist appears to an American student, telling her that the son of a lord may be the serial killer all London is looking for. Lightweight but enjoyably old-fashioned murder mystery whose greatest drawback is its writer-director’s presence in a sidekick role that is surplus to the plot’s requirements.

Focus Features presents, in association with BBC Films and Ingenious Film Partners, a Jelly Roll production, produced in association with Phoenix Wiley; produced by Ingenious Film Partners on behalf of Tishimingo Productions. Starring Woody Allen, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Ian McShane; also starring Charles Dance, Romola Garai, Kevin R. McNally. Directed and written by Woody Allen; produced by Letty Aronson and Gareth Wiley; director of photography, Remi Adefarasin; production designer, Maria Djurkovic; costume designer, Jill Taylor; film editor, Alisa Lepselter.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Otets i Syn

Father and Son

(Germany/France/Russia/Italy/Netherlands, 2003, 86 minutes)

A military cadet has a powerful, almost loving relationship with his father that the arrival of a young man looking for his own disappeared father throws into question. Painterly, oblique moodpiece without much of a story or even a thin plot, aiming at some sort of visual poetry; beautiful to look at, but rather baffling even for arthouse devotees.

A Zero Film presentation/production, in co-production with Lumen Films, Nikola-Film, Mikado Film and Isabella Films, with support from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, Filmboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Centre National de la Cinématographie, Dutch Filmfund and Fondazione Montecinemaverità. Starring Andrey Shchetinin, Aleksey Neymyshev, Alexander Razbash, Fedor Lavrov, Marina Zasukhina. Directed by Alexander Sokurov; produced by Thomas Kufus; written by Sergey Potepalov; music by Andrey Sigle, based on themes by Peter Tchaikovsky; director of photography, Alexander Burov; art director, Natalya Kochergina; costume designer, Bernadette Corstens; film editor, Sergey Ivanov.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Mat i Syn

Mother and Son

(Germany/Russia, 1997, 71 minutes)

A son takes precious care of his dying mother. Painterly, oblique moodpiece that has no narrative to speak of and resolves itself into a solemn, somber series of breathtakingly photographed sequences.

A Zero Film presentation/production, in co-production with Ö Film and Severny Fond, with the support of Filmförderung Hamburg, Bundesministerium des Innern and Goskino. Starring Gudrun Geyer and Alexei Ananishnov. Directed by Alexander Sokurov; produced by Thomas Kufus; written by Yuri Arabov; music by Mikhail Glinka, Otmar Nussio and Giuseppe Verdi; director of photography, Alexei Fyodorov; art directors, Vera Zelinskaya and Esther Ritterbusch; film editor, Leda Semyonova.

Fast Food Nation

(Great Britain/USA, 2006, 112 minutes)

A marketing executive for a fast-food chain investigates accusations of contamination at the Colorado factory where the meat is processed — the same factory that is the promised land for a number of illegal Mexican migrants looking for a better life. Intriguing but insufficient film version of a best-selling, non-fiction exposé about the fast food industry, turned into an all-star prestige melodrama; there’s a welcome ambiguity to the film and a sincere effort to create characters rather than archetypes, but the absence of visual style and the lackadaisical pacing and structure play against it.

Recorded Picture Company presents, in association with Hanway Films, Participant Productions and BBC Films, a Jeremy Thomas production. Starring Patricia Arquette, Bobby Cannavale, Paul Dano, Luis Guzman, Ethan Hawke, Ashley Johnson, Greg Kinnear, Kris Kristofferson, Avril Lavigne, Esai Morales, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Lou Taylor Pucci, Ana Claudia Talancón, Wilmer Valderrama, Bruce Willis. Directed by Richard Linklater; produced by Jeremy Thomas, Malcolm McLaren; screenplay by Eric Schlosser and Richard Linklater, based on the book Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser; music by Friends of Dean Martinez; director of photography, Lee Daniel; production designer, Bruce Curtis; costume designers, Kari Perkins and Lee Hunsaker; film editor, Sandra Adair.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Flags of Our Fathers

(USA, 2006, 132 minutes)

The true story of the soldiers who raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi in the island of Iwo Jima in 1944 after one of the bloodiest battles of WWII only to find themselves shipped back to the US to be cheered as heroes. Thoughtful, powerful war melodrama that, despite classy handling and excellent performances, never seems to find its rhythm.

Warner Bros. Pictures and Dreamworks Pictures present a Malpaso/Amblin Entertainment production. Starring Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach, John Benjamin Hickey, John Slattery, Barry Pepper, Jamie Bell, Paul Walker. Directed by Clint Eastwood; produced by Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Robert Lorenz; screenplay by William Broyles Jr. and Paul Haggis, based on the book Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley with Ron Powers; music by Clint Eastwood; director of photography, Tom Stern; production designer, Henry Bumstead; costume designer, Deborah Hopper; film editor, Joel Cox; visual effects supervisor, Michael Owens.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Body Rice

(Portugal, 2006, 118 minutes)

A group of German teenagers sent to Portugal to a social reinsertion programme wander around the countryside looking for a meaning to their lives. Oblique arthouse piece that does not want to have a story to tell (good, because it doesn’t have one) but is unable to substitute it for anything else other than emptiness.

An Atalanta Filmes release. Paulo Branco presents a Clap Filmes production, with the support of ICAM and RTP. Starring Sylte Fee Wegmann, Alice Dwyer, André Hennicke, Luís Guerra, Julika Jenkins, Pedro Hestnes. Directed and written by Hugo Vieira da Silva; produced by Paulo Branco; director of photography, Paulo Ares; set decorators, Nuno Mega, João Mega, João Faria, Jörg, Rui Coelho; costume designer, Maria Gambina; film editor, Paulo Milhomens.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Shijie

The World

(Japan/China/France, 2004, 140 minutes)

A young provincial Chinese couple working at a Beijing theme park where she’s a dancer and he’s a security guard find themselves drifting apart. Attentive, patient melodrama of contemporary Chinese society, with something to say about the growing uniformity of our world; it takes its time to unfold its many pleasures, as the arresting visuals (shot on high-definition digital video) are only the tip of the iceberg.

An Office Kitano/Xstream Pictures/Lumen Films presentation/production, in association with Bandai Visual, Tokyo FM, Dentsu, TV Asahi, Bitters End, Shanghai Film Studio and China Film Coproduction Corporation, with the financial support of Fonds Sud Cinéma. Starring Zhao Tao, Cheng Tai Shen, Wang Hong Wei, Huang Yi Qun, Jiang Zhong Wei, Ji Shuai, Liu Juan, Jing Jue, Xiang Wan, Liang Jing Dong, Bi Feng Fei, Alla Chtcherbakova, Andrey Shcherbakov. Directed and written by Jia Zhang Ke; produced by Takio Yoshida, Shozo Ichiyama, Ren Zhong Lun; music by Lim Giong; director of photography, Yu Lik Wai; art director, Wu Li Zhong; wardrobe, Ma Yu Tao; film editor, Kong Jin Lei.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Apocalypto

(USA, 2006, 138 minutes)

At the end of the Mayan empire, a Mayan hunting party raids and ravages a small jungle community, taking their warriors to become human sacrifices; but one of the warriors, who left his pregnant wife and child safe behind, decides to fight his captivity. Intriguing but failed epic entirely spoken in the Mayan dialect Yucatec by a cast of local unknowns that ends up being an exotic and thinly-plotted chase movie for most of its length, despite the ponderous attempts at meaningfulness; the generally unpleasant and unnecessary graphic violence is a big minus.

Icon Entertainment presents an Icon production. Starring Rudy Youngblood, Dalia Hernandez, Jonathan Brewer, Morris Birdyellowhead, Carlos Emilio Baez, Amilcar Ramirez, Israel Contreras Vasquez, Israel Rios, Isabel Diaz, Espiridion Acosta Canche, Mayra Serbulo Cortes, Iazua Larios Ruiz, Hiram Soto, Raoul Trujillo, Gerardo Taracena, Rodolfo Palacios, Ariel Galvan, Bernardo Ruiz Juarez, Ricardo Diaz Mendoza, Richard Can, Carlos Enriques Ramos Avilar, Ammel Rodrigo Mendoza, Marco Antonio Argueta, Maria Isidra Hoil. Directed by Mel Gibson; produced by Mel Gibson and Bruce Davey; written by Mel Gibson and Farhad Safinia; music by James Horner; director of photography, Dean Semler; production designer, Tom Sanders; costume designer, Mayes C. Rubeo; film editor, John Wright; special make-up and prosthetics designed by Keith Vanderlaan.

Friday, January 05, 2007

L'Odore del Sangue

(Italy/France, 2004, 101 minutes)

After 20 years of life in common, a couple agrees to each other’s side affairs, but the husband finds himself taken aback when the wife confides she has taken a much younger lover. Surprisingly absorbing two-hander on the themes of love and obsession, with things more suggested than actually seen.

A Studio Canal presentation. Mikado presents a Mikado/Biancafilm/Arcapix/Babe production. Starring Michele Placido, Fanny Ardant, Giovanna Giuliani. Directed by Mario Martone; produced by Donatella Botti; screenplay by Mario Martone, from the novel The Smell of Blood by Goffredo Parise; director of photography, Cesare Accetta; production designer, Sergio Tramonti; costume designer, Paola Marchesin; film editor, Jacopo Quadri.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Night at the Museum

(USA, 2006, 108 minutes)

A divorced father who can’t seem to hold a job for long accepts to be the night security guard at the New York Museum of Natural History — unaware the exhibits truly come alive at night. Entertaining, cheerful family comedy from a children's book, with excellent trick effects.

Twentieth Century-Fox presents, in association with Ingenious Film Partners, a 1492 Pictures/21 Laps production. Starring Ben Stiller, Carla Gugino, Dick van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs, Jake Cherry, Ricky Gervais; and Robin Williams. Directed by Shawn Levy; produced by Shawn Levy, Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan; screenplay by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, based on the book The Night at the Museum by Milan Trenc; music by Alan Silvestri; director of photography, Guillermo Navarro; production designer, Claude Paré; costume designer, Renée April; film editor, Don Zimmerman; visual effects supervisor, Jim Rygiel.