Friday, February 23, 2007

The Good Shepherd

(USA, 2006, 168 minutes)

A Yale honours student is recruited into the American secret services during WWII and rises to be one of the heads of the CIA, to the cost of his own personal life. Drawn-out but surprisingly riveting fictional melodrama set against real-life events, with the meticulous spy procedural disguising an excellent character study of a man torn between duty and family; good production values and uniformly good acting.

Universal Pictures and Morgan Creek Productions present an American Zoetrope/Tribeca/Morgan Creek production. Starring Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, Tammy Blanchard, Billy Crudup, Robert de Niro, Keir Dullea, Michael Gambon, Martina Gedeck, William Hurt, Timothy Hutton, Mark Ivanir, Gabriel Macht, Lee Pace, Joe Pesci, Eddie Redmayne, John Sessions, Oleg Stefan, John Turturro. Directed by Robert de Niro; produced by James G. Robinson, Jane Rosenthal, Robert de Niro; written by Eric Roth; music by Marcelo Zarvos and Bruce Fowler; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Robert Richardson; production designer, Jeannine Oppewall; costume designer, Ann Roth; film editor, Tariq Anwar.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Smokin' Aces

(USA/Great Britain, 2007, 109 minutes)

The Mafia puts a reward of $1 million on the head of a Las Vegas entertainer-cum-criminal who is about to inform for the FBI, and a bevy of contract killers are let loose on the hotel where he’s hiding. Entertainingly cartoonish all-star black-comedy actioner aiming for a Quentin Tarantino-meets-Ocean’s Eleven feel, with over-the-top violence and a surfeit of style making up for uneven (but cleverly wisecracking) scripting.

Universal Pictures presents, in association with Studiocanal and Relativity Media, a Working Title production, in association with Scion Films. Starring Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Alicia Keys, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds, Peter Berg, Taraji Henson, Chris Pine, Martin Henderson, Jason Bateman; and Matthew Fox. Directed and written by Joe Carnahan; produced by Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner; music by Clint Mansell; director of photography (Technicolor; Panavision), Mauro Fiore; production designer, Martin Whist; costume designer, Mary Zophres; film editor, Robert Frazen.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Last King of Scotland

(Great Britain/Germany, 2006, 121 minutes)

In the early 1970s, a newly-graduated Scottish doctor accepts to become personal physician to the newly-installed president of Uganda, Idi Amin, and slowly discovers the real man behind the charming facade. An acclaimed novel that builds its fictional spin out of true-life events and characters becomes a rivetingly handled drama whose stylish visuals and excellent cast raise it above televisual docudrama territory.

A Twentieth Century Fox release. Fox Searchlight Pictures, DNA Films and Filmfour present, in association with the UK Film Council and Scottish Screen, a Cowboy Films/Slate Films production with Tatfilm. Starring Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Simon McBurney, David Oyelowo; and Gillian Anderson. Directed by Kevin Macdonald; produced by Andrea Calderwood, Lisa Bryer and Charles Steel; screenplay by Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock, based on the novel The Last King of Scotland by Giles Foden; music by Alex Heffes; director of photography (Deluxe; Panavision), Anthony Dod Mantle; production designer, Michael Carlin; costume designer, Michael O'Connor; film editor, Justine Wright.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Letters from Iwo Jima

(USA, 2006, 134 minutes)

The pivotal WWII battle of Iwo Jima as seen by the Japanese defenders of the island. Harrowing, powerful war picture that weaves in between its quite classic structure a poignant, humanist meditation on the nature of heroism. In all aspects a superior film to its companion piece Flags of Our Fathers.

Dreamworks Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures present a Malpaso/Amblin Entertainment production. Starring Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase, Shidou Nakamura. Directed by Clint Eastwood; produced by Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Robert Lorenz; screenplay by Iris Yamashita, based on a story by Iris Yamashita and Paul Haggis, and on the book Picture Letters from the Commander in Chief by Tadamichi Kuribayashi; music by Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens; director of photography, Tom Stern; production designers, Henry Bumstead and James J. Murakami; costume designer, Deborah Hopper; film editors, Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach; visual effects supervisor, Michael Owens.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Das Leben der Anderen

The Lives of Others

(Germany, 2006, 136 minutes)

In 1984 East Germany, a secret police investigator is assigned to monitor closely a playwright and his actress girlfriend, and begins doubting his mission when he realises it derives not from action against the state but from the Culture minister’s infatuation with the actress. Gripping drama of the human cost of pre-Berlin Wall politics, superbly controlled by a first-time director and featuring extraordinary performances. Nominated for the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

A Buena Vista International (Germany) release of a Wiedemann & Berg Filmproduktion production, in co-production with Bayerischer Rundfunk, ARTE and Creado Film, with the support of FilmFernsehFonds Bayern, FilmFörderungsAnstalt and Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg. Starring Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur. Directed and written by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck; produced by Quirin Berg and Max Wiedemann; music by Gabriel Yared and Stéphane Moucha; director of photography, Hagen Bogdanski; production designer, Silke Buhr; costume designer, Gabriele Binder; film editor, Patricia Rommel.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Rocky Balboa

(USA, 2006, 101 minutes)

Now retired and running his late wife’s restaurant, Rocky decides to return for one last exhibition match with the current heavyweight champion. Sixth and last in the Rocky saga, consciously returning to the original film’s rootsier sensibility; not a great film, but surprisingly likeable, populist entertainment.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Columbia Pictures and Revolution Studios present a Chartoff/Winkler production. Starring Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Antonio Tarver, Geraldine Hughes, Milo Ventimiglia, Tony Burton. Directed and written by Sylvester Stallone; produced by Charles Winkler, Billy Chartoff, David Winkler and Kevin King; music by Bill Conti; director of photography (DeLuxe), Clark Mathis; production designer, Franco-Giacomo Carbone; costume designer, Gretchen Patch; film editor, Sean Albertson.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Pursuit of Happyness

(USA, 2006, 114 minutes)

In 1981 San Francisco, a struggling medical device salesman decides to apply for an unpaid internship at a brokerage firm, just when his wife leaves him and their five-year old son and money runs out. Rags-to-riches star tearjerker based on a true story; not bad as these things go, and with a good star performance (acting opposite his real-life son), but pushing all the right buttons at all the right times.

Columbia Pictures presents, in association with Relativity Media, an Overbrook Entertainment/Escape Artists production. Starring Will Smith, Thandie Newton, Brian Howe, James Karen, Dan Castellaneta, Kurt Fuller; and introducing Jaden Christopher Syre Smith. Directed by Gabriele Muccino; produced by Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch, James Lassiter, Will Smith; written by Steven Conrad; music by Andrea Guerra; director of photography, Phedon Papamichael; production designer, J. Michael Riva; costume designer, Sharen Davis; film editor, Hughes Winborne.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Hollywoodland

(USA, 2006, 127 minutes)

In 1959, a struggling L. A. private detective is hired to investigate whether the suicide of television star George Reeves might have been a murder. Old-fashioned, hardboiled mystery with an unusually downbeat streak, inspired by a true story, but despite clever plotting and good acting it never really takes off.

Miramax Films and Focus Features present a Back Lot Pictures production. Starring Adrien Brody, Diane Lane, Ben Affleck, Bob Hoskins, Lois Smith, Robin Tunney. Directed by Allen Coulter; produced by Glenn Williamson; written by Paul Bernbaum; music by Marcelo Zarvos; director of photography, Jonathan Freeman; production designer, Leslie McDonald; costume designer, Julie Weiss; film editor, Michael Berenbaum.

Friday, February 02, 2007

No Sos Vos, Soy Yo

(Argentina/Spain, 2004, 106 minutes)

A Buenos Aires surgeon is dropped by his girlfriend of two years and finds it hard to get back on his feet. Standard romantic comedy without distinguishing features.

A Rizoma Films presentation/production, in co-production with Filmanova Invest, in association with Peluca Films and Real Media, supported by the Instituto Nacional del Cine y Actividades Audiovisuales and the Hubert Bals Fund. Starring Diego Peretti, Soledad Villamil, Cecilia Dopazo, Marcos Mundstock, Roly Serrano; with special participations by Maria Eugenia Tobal, Luis Brandoni. Directed by Juan Taratuto; produced by Hernán Musaluppi, Juan Taratuto, Anton Reixa; written by Juan Taratuto and Cecilia Dopazo; music by Diego Grimblat with Mariano Barrell; director of photography, Marcelo Iaccarino; art director, Daniel Gimelberg; costume designer, Constanza Balduzzi; film editor, Cesar Custodio.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Little Children

(USA, 2006, 136 minutes)

A frustrated stay-at-home mother and an unemployed father start an affair in a little suburban community worried about the presence among them of a newly-released child molester. Accomplished melodrama of suburban angst that is exceptionally presented and performed, yet remains a tad too ponderous for its own good and pads out its running time with wonderful but sidetracking diversions.

New Line Cinema presents a Bona Fide/Standard Film Company production. Starring Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly, Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley, Noah Emmerich, Gregg Edelman, Phyllis Somerville. Directed by Todd Field; produced by Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa, Todd Field; screenplay by Todd Field and Tom Perrotta, based on the novel Little Children by Tom Perrotta; music by Thomas Newman; director of photography, Antonio Calvache; production designer, David Gropman; costume designer, Melissa Economy; film editor, Leo Trombetta.