Saturday, March 31, 2007

Mr. Bean's Holiday

(Great Britain/USA/Germany, 2007, 90 minutes)

Mr. Bean wins a holiday in Cannes and a video camera on a church raffle, but trouble begins just as he leaves the train in Paris. Tiresome farce that — at least according to its star — marks the last outing for the ever-popular idiot savant originally created on TV; the funniest bits involve a subplot at the Cannes film festival that takes some sly digs at would-be film auteurs but bypasses the character completely.

Universal Pictures and Studiocanal present, in association with Motion Picture Alpha Produktionsgesellschaft, a Working Title production in association with Tiger Aspect Pictures. Starring Rowan Atkinson, Emma de Caunes, Jean Rochefort, Karel Roden, Max Baldry; and Willem Dafoe. Directed by Steve Bendelack; produced by Peter Bennett-Jones, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner; screenplay by Hamish McColl and Robin Driscoll, based on the character created by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson; music by Howard Goodall; director of photography (Technicolor), Baz Irvine; production designer, Michael Carlin; costume designer, Pierre-Yves Gayraud; film editor, Tony Cranstoun.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Honor de Cavalleria

(Spain, 2006, 112 minutes)

Don Quijote and his squire Sancho Panza roam the Spanish countryside. Obscure, naturalist variation on a literary classic where not much happens at great length; an interesting take, aimed at specialist viewers exclusively.

An Andergraun Films/Eddie Saeta/Notro Films production, with the participation of TVE and Televisió de Catalunya. Starring Lluís Carbó, Lluís Serrat; with the participation of Albert Pla. Directed, produced and written by Albert Serra; inspired by the novel D. Quijote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes; music by Ferran Font; directors of photography (DV transferred to 35mm; Swiss Effects), Christophe Farnarier, Eduard Grau; art director, Jimmy Gimferrer; wardrobe, Núria Tresserras; film editor, Àngel Martín.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Red Road

(Great Britain/Denmark, 2006, 113 minutes)

A lonely widow working at a CCTV surveillance centre finds out on screen that the man responsible for the death of her husband and child has been released from jail and begins stalking him. Technically accomplished and undeniably provocative but rather muddled melodrama that wastes its gripping premise and set-up on a somewhat conventional conclusion.

The UK Film Council, Scottish Screen, Glasgow Film Office and BBC Films present, in association with Zoma Films and Verve Pictures, a Sigma Films/Zentropa Entertainments5 production. Starring Kate Dickie, Tony Curran, Martin Compston, Natalie Press. Directed by Andrea Arnold; produced by Carrie Comerford; screenplay by Andrea Arnold, based on characters devised by Lone Scherfig and Anders Thomas Jensen; director of photography (Soho Images), Robbie Ryan; production designer, Helen Scott; costume designer, Carole K. Millar; film editor, Nicolas Chaudeurge.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

On a Clear Day

(Great Britain, 2004, 98 minutes)

A newly laid-off, middle-aged Glaswegian decides to swim across the English Channel. Amiably cheerful but predictable crowd-pleasing little comedy in the British tradition of The Full Monty, without any distinguishing features beyond the solid acting.

Icon Entertainment International presents a Forthcoming Productions/Infilm Productions/Take Partnership production, in association with Baker Street Media Finance, Glasgow Film Finance and Scottish Screen, produced in association with Isle of Man Film, in association with Invicta Capital. Starring Peter Mullan, Brenda Blethyn, Sean McGinley, Jamie Sives; and Billy Boyd; with Paul Ritter. Directed by Gaby Dellal; produced by Sarah Curtis and Dorothy Berwin; written by Alex Rose; music by Stephen Warbeck; director of photography (Technicolor), David Johnson; production designer, Mark Leese; costume designer, Kate Hawley; film editor, Robin Sales.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Angel-A

(France, 2005, 87 minutes)

A smalltime Parisian crook contemplating suicide rescues instead a stunning blonde girl from drowning in the Seine, but she turns out to be an angel come to Earth to help him. Ravishingly filmed fantasy whose whimsical, Wings of Desire-ish premise and paper-thin script are rescued by engaging performances, dazzling visuals and a wonderful lightness of touch that stops it from going overboard.

EuropaCorp presents an EuropaCorp production, in co-production with TF1 Films Production and Apipoulai Prod, with the participation of Canal Plus, in association with Sofica EuropaCorp. Starring Jamel Debbouze, Rie Rasmussen, Gilbert Melki, Serge Riaboukine. Directed and written by Luc Besson; music by Anja Garbarek; director of photography (b&w, Technovision), Thierry Arbogast; production designer, Jacques Bufnoir; costume designer, Martine Rapin; film editor, Frédéric Thoraval; visual effects supervisor, Pierre Buffin.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Megacities

(Austria/Switzerland, 1998, 90 minutes)

A look at people who live at subsistence level on the edges of four capitals across the world: Mumbai, New York, Mexico City and Moscow. Intriguing, conceptual documentary that uses its investigation of daily life on the edges as a starting point to spin a dissertation on the nature of documentary filmmaking and is a lot more interesting as such.

A Lotus-Film/Fama Film production, produced with the support of the Austrian Film Institute, ORF, Bundesamt für Kultur Bern, Teleclub and Eurimages. Directed and written by Michael Glawogger; produced by Erich Lackner and Rolf Schmid; camera, Wolfgang Thaler; sound, Ekkehart Baumung; film editor, Andrea Wagner.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Il Caimano

(Italy/France, 2006, 111 minutes)

A producer of exploitation movies trying for the past ten years to get a new project off the ground and undergoing a painful divorce decides on a whim to back a newcomer’s first feature, unaware it’s a public indictment against the current Italian prime-minister. Peculiar but intelligent comedy that mixes the personal and the political, though not always to good effect; it’s more intriguing and convincing as a portrait of the Italian film scene than as a pamphlet against Silvio Berlusconi, the since-ousted Italian prime-minister.

Sacher Film presents a Sacher Film/Bac Films/Stephan Films/France 3 Cinéma production, with the participation of Wild Bunch, Canal Plus and Cinécinéma. Starring Silvio Orlando, Margherita Buy, Jasmine Trinca, Nanni Moretti; with the special participation of Elio de Capitani, Toni Bertorelli, Anna Bonaiuto, Valerio Mastandrea, Giuliano Montaldo, Tatti Sanguineti, Jerzy Stuhr, Michele Placido. Directed by Nanni Moretti; produced by Angelo Barbagallo and Nanni Moretti; screenplay by Nanni Moretti, Francesco Piccolo, Federica Pontremoli, based on a story by Moretti and Heidrun Schleef; music by Franco Piersanti; director of photography, Arnaldo Catinari; production designer, Giancarlo Basili; costume designer, Lina Nerli Taviani; film editor, Esmeralda Calabria.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Suicídio Encomendado

(Portugal, 2007, 90 minutes)

A miserable young man is approached by a company specialised in organising suicides. A clever premise for an absurdist black comedy is wasted in what is essentially a cheap short pointlessly and amateurishly extended to feature length. Worth a mark for trying.

Francisco Bravo Ferreira presents an FBF Filmes release and production. Starring João Fino, José Wallenstein, Neuza Teixeira, Eloy Monteiro, Ana Melo, Luís Lucas. Directed and written by Artur Serra Araújo; produced by Francisco Bravo Ferreira; music by Pedro Marques; director of photography (mini-DV blown-up to 35mm), Pedro Azevedo; art director and costume designer, Zezinha Araújo; film editor, Henrique da Silva.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Fur — An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus

(USA, 2006, 122 minutes)

In 1958 New York, stifled by her position as assistant and trophy wife to her commercial photographer husband, Diane Arbus meets the mysterious new upstairs neighbour who will awake her talent as a photographer. Intriguing but ultimately unsuccessful fantasia on the life and influences of a celebrated art photographer; it’s a good effort that gets bogged down in look-at-me handling and some banal scripting.

Picturehouse and River Road Entertainment present an Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation/Bonnie Timmerman/Iron Films/Vox3 production. Starring Nicole Kidman, Robert Downey Jr., Ty Burrell, Harris Yulin; and Jane Alexander. Directed by Steven Shainberg; produced by William Pohlad, Laura Bickford, Bonnie Timmerman, Andrew Fierberg; screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson, inspired by the book Diane Arbus: A Biography by Patricia Bosworth; music by Carter Burwell; director of photography (DeLuxe prints), Bill Pope; production designer, Amy Danger; costume designer, Mark Bridges; film editors, Keiko Deguchi and Kristina Boden; special make-up effects supervisor, Shane Mahan.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Fountain

(USA, 2006, 94 minutes)

A doctor desperately seeks a cure for cancer in order to save his dying wife, who is writing a period novel on the search for the Fountain of Youth; both stories come together as a future astronaut travels to a dying star. Dazzlingly shot but narratively muddled dramatic fantasia on the myth of eternal life, with a history of production troubles, that took a brutal savaging at the hands of critics; under it, though, lies an affecting, desperately romantic melodrama, excellently performed by the two leads.

A Twentieth Century-Fox release. Regency Enterprises and Warner Bros. Pictures present a Protozoa Pictures/New Regency production. Starring Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn. Directed by Darren Aronofsky; produced by Eric Watson, Arnon Milchan and Iain Smith; screenplay by Darren Aronofsky, from a story by Aronofsky and Ari Handel; music by Clint Mansell; director of photography (Technicolor), Matthew Libatique; production designer, James Chinlund; costume designer, Renée April; film editor, Jay Rabinowitz; visual effects designers, Dan Schreckner and Jeremy Dawson.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Miss Potter

(USA/Great Britain, 2006, 92 minutes)

In 1902 London, illustrator Beatrix Potter finally finds a publisher willing to take on her stories for children, and finds love and independence in the process. Charmingly done but rather insubstantial biopic of the celebrated author, its surfeit of British tasteful production values failing to hide a miscast lead.

Phoenix Pictures presents, in association with Isle of Man Film and the UK Film Council, a David Kirschner production; with the participation of Grosvenor Park Media Services. Starring Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paterson, Barbara Flynn, Lloyd Owen; and Emily Watson. Directed by Chris Noonan; produced by Mike Medavoy, David Kirschner, Corey Sienega, Arnold W. Messer, David Thwaites; written by Richard Maltby Jr.; music by Nigel Westlake; additional music by Rachel Portman; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Andrew Dunn; production designer, Martin Childs; costume designer, Anthony Powell; film editor, Robin Sales.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ghost Rider

(USA, 2007, 115 minutes)

A stunt rider sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for his father’s life, and years later the Devil comes to collect by turning him into his bounty hunter. Trashy horror comic from a cult comic book, sloppily written and acted and indifferently presented.

Columbia Pictures presents, in association with Crystal Sky Pictures and Relativity Media, a Marvel Studios/Canarsie/Michael de Luca Productions production. Starring Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Wes Bentley, Sam Elliott, Donal Logue, Matt Long; and Peter Fonda. Directed by Mark Steven Johnson; produced by Avi Arad, Steven Paul, Michael de Luca, Gary Foster; screenplay by Mark Steven Johnson, based on the Marvel Comic; music by Christopher Young; director of photography (Cinevex Melbourne; Panavision), Russell Boyd; production designer, Kirk M. Petruccelli; costume designer, Lizzy Gardner; film editor, Richard Francis-Bruce; visual effects supervisor, Kevin Mack.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Brava Dança

(Portugal, 2006, 79 minutes)

A documentary on the history of 1980s Portuguese pop group Heróis do Mar. Laboriously researched but muddily organized oral history of little interest to non-specialist audiences.

A Lusomundo release. A Filmes do Tejo II production/presentation, in association with A Ventura Humana and Nervo, with financial support from ICAM and RTP. Directed by Jorge Pereirinha Pires and José Francisco Pinheiro; camera, sound, film editing, video post-production, graphics, José Francisco Pinheiro; additional camera and sound, Jorge Pereirinha Pires; sound design and mixing, António Pinheiro da Silva.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Man Cheng Jin Dai Huang Jin Jia

Curse of the Golden Flower

(China/Hong Kong, 2006, 113 minutes)

In Tang dynasty China, the Empress plots to overthrow the Emperor, who in turn is attempting to poison her. Operatic, overblown court melodrama whose baroque, virtuoso stylings prove the perfect foil to the palace intrigues at its heart.

Focus Features International presents a Film Partner International/Edko Films production in association with Beijing New Picture Film Company. Starring Chow Yun Fat, Gong Li, Jay Chou; co-starring Liu Ye. Directed by Zhang Yimou; produced by Bill Kong, Zhang Weiping; screenplay by Zhang Yimou, Wu Nan, Bian Zhihong; music by Shigeru Umebayashi; director of photography, Zhao Xiaoding; production designer, Huo Tingxiao; costume designer, Yee Chung Man; film editor, Cheng Long; action sequences directed by Tony Ching Siu-Tung.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Good German

(USA, 2006, 105 minutes)

In 1945 Berlin, an American war correspondent in town for the Potsdam peace conference finds an old flame is connected to the murder of a black-marketeering GI. Old-fashioned potboiler, presented in chiaroscuro black and white, that neglects its byzantine plot through its fascination with aping 1950s film noir style, which it does lovingly and at great length; as exercises in style go, though, this is an amazing (if flawed) one. (The film was not actually shot in black and white, but rather in colour and then digitally converted into b&w.) As usual, director Steven Soderbergh also photographed and edited the film under his usual aliases “Peter Andrews” and “Mary Ann Bernard”.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Virtual Studios, a Section Eight production. Starring George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire; with Beau Bridges, Tony Curran, Leland Orser, Jack Thompson, Robin Weigert. Directed, photographed (as Peter Andrews) and edited (as Mary Ann Bernard) by Steven Soderbergh; produced by Ben Cosgrove and Gregory Jacobs; screenplay by Paul Attanasio, based on the novel The Good German by Joseph Kanon; music by Thomas Newman; production designer, Philip Messina; costume designer, Louise Frogley.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Half Nelson

(USA, 2006, 104 minutes)

A well-regarded New York high school history teacher is in fact a disillusioned idealist with a severe drug habit, and he bonds with one of his students, a young girl whose brother is in jail for drug dealing and who feels as disillusioned as he is. Bleak, gritty but engaging urban drama, handled with nerve and excellently performed, that thankfully prefers to ask questions rather than pass judgment.

A Thinkfilm release. Hunting Lane Films presents, in association with Silverwood Films and Original Media, a Hunting Lane Films/Journeyman Pictures production, with the support of Verisimilitude. Starring Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps; and Anthony Mackie. Directed by Ryan Fleck; produced by Jamie Patricof, Alex Orlovsky, Lynette Howell, Anna Boden, Rosanne Korenberg; written by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck; music by Broken Social Scene; director of photography (Deluxe), Andrij Pareikh; production designer, Elizabeth Mickle; costume designer, Erin Benach; film editor, Anna Boden.

Friday, March 02, 2007

El Laberinto del Fauno

Pan's Labyrinth

(Spain/Mexico/USA, 2006, 117 minutes)

In 1944 Spain, the young stepdaughter of a terrifyingly cruel fascist officer discovers she may be the princess of an underground kingdom she abandoned long ago. Dark fairytale fantasy for adults, extraordinarily imagined and crafted but not entirely successful in reconciling its two (rather powerful by themselves) narrative strands.

A Wild Bunch presentation. Telecinco presents an Estudios Picasso/Tequila Gang/Esperanto Filmoj production, in association with CaféFX, supported by the ICAA, in association with Sententia Entertainment. Starring Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Ivana Baquero, Alex Angulo, Ariadna Gil, Doug Jones; with the special participation of Federico Luppi. Directed and written by Guillermo del Toro; produced by Guillermo del Toro, Bertha Navarro, Alfonso Cuarón, Frida Torresblanco, Álvaro Augustín; music by Javier Navarrete; director of photography, Guillermo Navarro; production designer, Eugenio Caballero; costume designer, Lala Huete; film editor, Bernat Vilaplana; special make-up and animatronic effects, DDT FX, supervised by David Marti and Montse Ribe; visual effects, CaféFX, supervised by Everett Burrell; special effects, Reyes Abades.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Notes on a Scandal

(Great Britain/USA, 2006, 90 minutes)

A lonely, bitter teacher at a troubled London school befriends the new art teacher — and, after catching her having an affair with an underage student, blackmails her into being her best friend. Impeccably presented psychological melodrama-cum-character study that exists essentially as an efficient showpiece for two excellent actresses.

Fox Searchlight Pictures and DNA Films present, in association with the UK Film Council and BBC Films, a Scott Rudin/Robert Fox production, presented in association with Ingenious Film Partners 2. Starring Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, Bill Nighy, Andrew Simpson. Directed by Richard Eyre; produced by Scott Rudin and Robert Fox; screenplay by Patrick Marber, based on the novel Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller; music by Philip Glass; director of photography (Technicolor), Chris Menges; production and costume designer, Tim Hatley; film editors, John Bloom and Antonia van Drimmelen.