Friday, July 27, 2007

The Simpsons Movie

(USA, 2007, 87 minutes)

A reckless decision to bring home a pig leads Homer Simpson to unleash an ecological catastrophe that imperils both Springfield and his marriage and family life. Lively and often very funny big-screen expansion of the beloved satirical animated TV series, but essentially no more than a longer episode with bigger production values.

Twentieth Century-Fox presents a Gracie Films/Matt Groening production. With the voices of Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Pamela Hayden, Tress MacNeille; and A. Brooks. Directed by David Silverman; produced by James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Scully and Richard Sakai; screenplay by James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean, Ian Maxtone-Graham, George Meyer, David Mirkin, Mike Reiss, Mike Scully, Matt Selman, John Swartzwalder, Jon Vitti; music by Hans Zimmer; Simpsons theme by Danny Elfman; sequence directors, Mike B. Anderson, Lauren MacMullan, Rich Moore, Steven Dean Moore, Scott Vanzo; animation produced by Film Roman, Rough Draft Animation Company; overseas animation by Akom Production Company, Rough Draft Korea; art director, Dima Malanitchev; film editor, John Carnochan.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bug

(USA/Germany, 2006, 101 minutes)

A hard-luck waitress takes in a kind but mysterious stranger who turns out to be a Gulf War veteran with some sort of psychological illness who sees bugs everywhere. Claustrophobic, overwrought two-hander from a hit off-Broadway play that builds to a hysterical demonstration of the dangers of paranoid conspiracy theories and the ease with which people buy into them; technical credits and performances excellent all around, but still not something that could be called enjoyable.

Lionsgate presents a L. I. F. T. Productions/DMK Mediafonds International production, produced in association with Inferno Distribution. Starring Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, Lynn Collins, Brian F. O'Byrne; and Harry Connick, Jr. Directed by William Friedkin; produced by Holly Wiersma, Kimberly C. Anderson, Malcolm Petal, Gary Huckabay, Michael Burns, Andreas Schardt; screenplay by Tracy Letts, based on his play Bug; music by Brian Tyler; director of photography (Technicolor), Michael Grady; production designer, Franco Carbone; costume designer, Peggy Schnitzer; film editor, Darrin Navarro.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ghost Dog — The Way of the Samurai

(Japan/France/Germany/USA, 1999, 116 minutes)

A black hitman that lives by the centuries-old code of the Japanese samurais is marked for death by the mobsters that usually hire him. Offbeat arthouse thriller that harnesses its director’s stylistic trademarks, urban poetry and deadpan humour to a poignant meditation on honour and heritage.

JVC, Le Studio Canal Plus and Bac Films present, in association with Pandora Film and ARD/Degeto Film, a Plywood production. Starring Forest Whitaker, John Tormey, Cliff Gorman, Henry Silva, Isaach de Bankolé, Tricia Vessey, Victor Argo, Gene Ruffini, Richard Portnow; and introducing Camille Winbush. Directed and written by Jim Jarmusch; produced by Richard Guay and Jim Jarmusch; music by RZA; director of photography (Deluxe), Robby Müller; production designer, Ted Berner; costume designer, John Dunn; film editor, Jay Rabinowitz.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

O Fatalista

(Portugal/France, 2005, 103 minutes)

A driver tells his wealthy master the story of his love affairs as they drive around the country, but they’re constantly interrupted by other stories. Stilted, austere update of a classic novel as wry, deadpan comedy; its dry formalism works against it, but there are some minor pleasures along the way.

Paulo Branco presents a Madragoa Filmes/Gemini Films production, with financial support from ICAM and RTP. Starring Rogério Samora, André Gomes, Rita Blanco, Suzana Borges, Patrícia Guerreiro, José Wallenstein, Teresa Madruga, Margarida Villanova, Maria Emília Correia, Adriano Luz, João Baptista, Helena Laureano, Ana Bustorff, Laura Soveral, José Pinto, José Eduardo, Cláudia Teixeira, Miguel Monteiro, Rui Morrison. Directed by João Botelho; produced by Paulo Branco; screenplay (uncredited) by João Botelho, adapted from the novel Jacques the Fatalist and His Master by Denis Diderot; director of photography (colour), Edmundo Díaz; art director, Catarina Amaro; costume designer, Isabel Branco; film editor, Renata Sancho.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Alpha Dog

(USA/Germany, 2005, 115 minutes)

A teenage L. A. drug dealer and his gang of friends get in way over their heads when a minor debt blows into a major beef and they unwittingly kidnap a young man. Intriguing true-crime melodrama that loosely fictionalizes a real-life case, but despite very strong acting from fresh talent it tends to fall on the side of the moralizing cautionary tale.

Universal Pictures and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment present a VIP Medienfonds 2/A-Mark Entertainment production. Starring Ben Foster, Shawn Hatosy, Emile Hirsch, Christopher Marquette, Justin Timberlake, Anton Yelchin, Lukas Haas, Alex Kingston, Harry Dean Stanton, Dominique Swain, David Thornton, Heather Wahlquist, Vincent Kartheiser, Alex Solowitz, Fernando Vargas, Olivia Wilde; with Sharon Stone; and Bruce Willis. Directed and written by Nick Cassavetes; produced by Sidney Kimmel, Chuck Pacheco; music by Aaron Zigman; director of photography (DeLuxe, widescreen), Robert Fraisse; production designer, Dominic Watkins; costume designer, Sara Jane Slotnick; film editor, Alan Heim.

Friday, July 20, 2007

I Could Never Be Your Woman

(Great Britain/USA, 2006, 96 minutes)

A divorced fortysomething TV producer finds herself falling in love with a charming new actor on her series... 15 years younger. Dismally unfunny romantic comedy that wastes a game cast and a good premise on a non-existant script; not even the sunny performances help.

Bauer Martinez Entertainment presents a Templar Films production in association with Formula Films and Lucky 7 Productions. Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Paul Rudd, Sarah Alexander, Stacey L. Dash, Jon Lovitz, Fred Willard; introducing Saoirse Ronan; and Tracey Ullman. Directed and written by Amy Heckerling; produced by Cerisse Hallam Larkin, Philippe Martinez, Alan Latham; music by Mike Hedges; director of photography (DeLuxe), Brian Tufano; production designer, Jon Henson; costume designer, Shay Cunliffe; film editor, Kate Coggins.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Death Proof

(USA, 2007, 113 minutes)

Beautiful young women are targeted by a maniac stuntman who enjoys killing them with his “death-proof” stuntcar. Virtuoso riff on 1960s and 1970s exploitation movies from a director long infatuated with low-budget genre cinema; outstanding dialogue and performances and attentive handling go a long way towards redressing the minimal plot and overlength. Originally released in the US, in a 90m version, alongside Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror as one half of Grindhouse, a double-feature homage to 1970s exploitation movies; both films were exhibited separately outside the US.

Dimension Films presents a Troublemaker Studios production. Starring Kurt Russell; Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Sydney Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead; and Zoë Bell; with Michael Parks. Directed, written and photographed (DeLuxe, Panavision) by Quentin Tarantino; produced by Elizabeth Avellán, Robert Rodriguez, Erica Steinberg, Quentin Tarantino; production designer, Steve Joyner; costume designer, Nina Proctor; film editor, Sally Menke; special make-up effects designed and created by Gregory Nicotero and Howard Berger.

Friday, July 13, 2007

La Faute à Fidel

(France/Italy, 2006, 101 minutes)

In 1970 Paris, a seven-year old has a hard time adjusting when her bourgeois parents, swept up by the revolutionary Latin American democracy movements, become social and political activists and her lifestyle changes abruptly. Lively and sensitive family comedy-drama which would make a fine coming-of-age piece if the lead character wasn’t too young for that definition; despite the background, it is not a political film.

A Gaumont Columbia Tristar Films release. Gaumont presents a Gaumont/Les Films du Worso/B Movies/France 3 Cinéma production, with the participation of Canal Plus, Cinécinéma, Région Île-de-France and Sofica Soficinéma 4. Starring Nina Kervel, Julie Depardieu, Stefano Accorsi, Benjamin Feuillet. Directed by Julie Gavras; produced by Sylvie Pialat; screenplay by Julie Gavras with the collaboration of Arnaud Cathrine, based on the novel Tutto Colpa di Fidel by Domitilla Calamai; music by Armand Amar; director of photography (Eclair, Technovision), Nathalie Durand; production designer, Laurent Deroo; costume designer, Annie Thiellement; film editor, Pauline Dairou.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

(Great Britain/USA, 2007, 132 minutes)

Harry Potter and his friends start secret classes to practise their magic skills after the Ministry of Magic, disbelieving of the imminent return of the dread Lord Voldemort, attempts to stamp its control over Hogwarts. Fifth in the highly popular book-to-film series is basically a compact illustration of the book’s highlights; good-looking but merely functional, and unlikely to appeal to anyone who hasn’t seen the previous instalments.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a Heyday Films production. Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Richard Griffiths, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson. Directed by David Yates; produced by David Heyman, David Barron; screenplay by Michael Goldenberg, based on the novel Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling; music by Nicholas Hooper; director of photography (Technicolor, widescreen), Slawomir Idziak; production designer, Stuart Craig; costume designer, Jany Temime; film editor, Mark Day; visual effects supervisor, Tim Burke.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Belle Toujours

(Portugal/France, 2006, 70 minutes)

40 years after they last saw each other, an old libertine and his best friend’s wife meet for dinner to close their past for good. Whimsical “sequel” to Luís Buñuel’s 1967 classic Belle de Jour that extends the mystery of the original in its director’s usual staid, portentous style. Michel Piccoli reprises his original role in Belle de Jour, but Bulle Ogier replaces Catherine Deneuve, who was invited but declined.

A Les Films du Paradoxe release. Miguel Cadilhe and Serge Lalou present a Filbox Produções/Les Films d'Ici co-production, with financial support from the Portuguese Ministry of Culture, ICAM, Centre National de la Cinématographie and RTP. Starring Michel Piccoli, Bulle Ogier, Ricardo Trêpa, Leonor Baldaque, Júlia Buisel. Directed and written by Manoel de Oliveira; produced by Miguel Cadilhe; director of photography (colour), Sabine Lancelin; production designer, Christian Marti; costume designer, Milena Canonero; film editor, Valérie Loiseleux.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Transformers

(USA, 2007, 144 minutes)

Warring factions of living robots from outer space come to Earth to look for an artefact that may restore their planet or give them complete power over the universe. Impressively presented trashy comic book inspired by a long-running series of children’s toys, with actors and storyline taking a backseat to the excellent trick effects and a neat line in tongue-in-cheek humour; as mindless action entertainment aimed at teenagers, it’s practically unbeatable.

Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks Pictures present, in association with Hasbro, a Don Murphy—Tom de Santo/Di Bonaventura Pictures production. Starring Shia LaBoeuf, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, Anthony Anderson, Megan Fox, Rachael Taylor; with John Turturro; and Jon Voight. Directed by Michael Bay; produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Tom de Santo, Don Murphy, Ian Bryce; screenplay by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, based on a story by John Rogers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, based on the Hasbro action figure toys; music by Steve Jablonsky; director of photography (DeLuxe prints, Panavision), Mitchell Amundsen; production designer, Jeff Mann; costume designer, Deborah L. Scott; film editors, Paul Rubell, Glen Scantlebury, Thomas K. Muldoon; visual effects supervisor, Scott Farrar.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

In the Land of Women

(USA, 2006, 97 minutes)

A disappointed writer who’s been dumped by his girlfriend goes to Michigan to spend time with his ailing grandmother, and becomes friends with the mother and daughter next door, who are dealing with problems of their own. Smart comedy-drama of modern relationships that knows its way effortlessly around the genre’s cliches.

A Warner Bros. Pictures release. Castle Rock Entertainment presents an Anonymous Content production. Starring Adam Brody, Kristen Stewart; with Meg Ryan; Olympia Dukakis, Makenzie Vega, Elena Anaya, Clark Gregg, JoBeth Williams. Directed and written by Jonathan Kasdan; produced by Steve Golin and David Kanter; music by Stephen Trask; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Paul Cameron; production designer, Sandy Cochrane; costume designer, Trish Keating; film editor, Carol Littleton.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Xi Zao

Shower

(China, 1999, 95 minutes)

An urban executive returns to Beijing to visit his father and retarded brother who run a public bathhouse, and after a few initial misunderstandings realises what he’s been missing. Low-key family melodrama that starts off promisingly but ends up going nowhere through a rather convoluted path, wasting some humourous moments and a couple of endearing performances.

An Imar Film Company presentation/production in conjunction with the Xian Film Studio. Starring Pu Cau Xin, Zhu Xu, Jiang Wu. Directed by Zhang Yang; produced by Peter Loehr; written by Zhang Yang, Liu Fen Dou, Huo Xin, Dhao Yi Nan, Cao Shang Jung; music by Ye Xiao Gang; director of photography (colour), Zhang Jian; art director, Tian Meng; film editor, Yang Hong Yu.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Shiqi Sui De Dan Che

Beijing Bicycle

(Taiwan/France/China, 2000, 113 minutes)

A young provincial finds a job in Beijing as a bike messenger, but his bicycle is stolen and ends up in the hands of a moneyless student wanting to belong to his high school cool clique. Poignant neo-realist melodrama of modern urban life, as gripping as it is downbeat.

Arc Light Films presents an Arc Light Films production, co-produced by Pyramide Productions, in association with Public Television Service Foundation, Eastern Television, Asiatic Films and Beijing Film Studio. Starring Cui Lin, Li Bin, Zhou Xun, Gao Yuanyuan, Li Shuang, Zhao Yiwei, Pang Yan, Zhou Fangfei, Xie Jian, Ma Yuhong, Liu Lei, Li Mengnan. Directed by Wang Xiaoshuai; produced by Peggy Chiao, Hsu Hsiao-Ming, Han San-Ping; written by Wang Xiaoshuai, Tang Danian, Peggy Chiao, Hsu Hsiao-Ming; music by Wang Feng; director of photography (Taipei Motion Picture Corporation), Liu Jie; art directors, Cao Anjun, Tsai Chao-Yi; costume designer, Pang Yan; supervising film editor, Liao Ching-Song; film editors, Yang Hongyu, Hsiao Ju-Kuan.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Uzak

Distant

(Turkey, 2002, 109 minutes)

A depressed Istanbul photographer takes on as a lodger his unemployed country cousin come to the big city to find work. Sophisticated, atmospheric study in existentialism, with an unexpected but welcome undercurrent of desperate comedy.

A NBC Ajans production, produced with financial support of the Hubert Bals Fund of the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Starring Muzaffer Özdemir, Mehmet Emin Toprak, Zuhal Gencer Erkaya, Nazan Kirilmis. Directed, produced, written and photographed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan; production designer, Ebru Yapici; film editors, Ayhan Ergürsel and N. B. Ceylan.