Sunday, September 30, 2007

1408

(USA, 2007, 104 minutes)

A jaded writer who trades in debunking haunted houses for a living checks in into a New York hotel room whose every occupant has been found dead. Smart supernatural thriller that intelligently puts atmosphere and character above gratuitous shocks or visual effects.

Dimension Films presents a Lorenzo di Bonaventura production. Starring John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormack, Tony Shalhoub, Jasmine Jessica Anthony. Directed by Mikael Håfström; produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura; screenplay by Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander and Larry Karazsewski, based on the short story by Stephen King, "1408"; music by Gabriel Yared; director of photography (Technicolor; Panavision), Benoît Delhomme; production designer, Andrew Laws; costume designer, Natalie Ward; film editor, Peter Boyle; visual effects supervisor, Sean H. Farrow.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Stardust

(USA/Great Britain, 2007, 127 minutes)

In Victorian England, an awkward shopboy vows to go fetch a shooting star to prove his love to the feckless village girl he loves; but his quest leads him across the Wall to the magical kingdom of Stormhold and into an unexpected adventure.
Smart, witty, lively adventure fantasy that ingeniously and skilfully deconstructs traditional fairy tales.

Paramount Pictures presents, in association with Marv Films, a Matthew Vaughn/Lorenzo di Bonaventura production, produced in association with Ingenious Film Partners 2. Starring Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Sienna Miller, Ricky Gervais, Jason Flemyng, Mark Strong, Rupert Everett; special participation by Peter O'Toole; with Michelle Pfeiffer; and Robert de Niro. Directed by Matthew Vaughn; produced by Matthew Vaughn, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Michael Dreyer, Neil Gaiman; screenplay by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, based on the graphic novel Stardust, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Charles Vess; music by Ilan Eshkeri; director of photography (DeLuxe, Panavision), Ben Davis; production designer, Gavin Bocquet; costume designer, Sammy Sheldon; film editor, Jon Harris; visual effects supervisor, Peter Chiang.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Fay Grim

(USA/Germany, 2006, 116 minutes)

Seven years after her husband has disappeared, Fay Grim finds out he may have been a spy and a number of intelligence agencies are after the notebooks where he wrote his magnum opus. Deadpan, wryly satirical deconstruction of espionage thrillers that features all the hallmarks one has come to expect from its arty director; a sequel of sorts to 1997’s Henry Fool, though you needn’t have seen the original to enjoy this.

A Magnolia Pictures release. HDNet Films presents a Possible Films production in association with This Is That and Zero Fiction, supported by Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg. Starring Parker Posey, Jeff Goldblum, James Urbaniak, Saffron Burrows, Liam Aiken, Elina Löwensohn, Leo Fitzpatrick, Chuck Montgomery; and Thomas Jay Ryan. Directed, written, edited and music composed by Hal Hartley; produced by Jason Kliot, Joana Vicente, Mike S. Ryan, Martin Hagemann, Hal Hartley; director of photography (colour; HD digital video transferred to 35mm), Sarah Cawley; production designer, Richard Sylvarnes; costume designers, Anette Guther and Daniela Selig.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Peindre ou faire l'amour

(France, 2005, 98 minutes)

A middle-aged bourgeois couple relocates to a rural cottage where, through their friendship with the local mayor and his wife, they find their senses, and their sensuality, reawakening. Good-looking but unsuccessful piece of updated hippie whimsy partially redeemed by its attention to Nature and by its irreproachable casting.

A Pyramide Distribution release. A Les Films Pelléas presentation/production, in co-production with France 2 Cinéma and Rhône-Alpes Cinéma, with the participation of Canal Plus and the support of Centre National de la Cinématographie, Région Rhône-Alpes, Région Midi-Pyrénées and TPS Star. Starring Sabine Azéma, Daniel Auteuil, Amira Casar, Sergi Lopez. Directed and written by Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu; produced by Philippe Martin and Géraldine Michelot; music by Philippe Katerine; director of photography (GTC), Christophe Beaucarne; production designer, Brigitte Brassart; costume designer, Laurence Struz; film editor, Annette Dutertre.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Superbad

(USA, 2007, 108 minutes)

Two geeky high school seniors are invited to a graduation party they see as their best chance to finally lose their virginity, but the way to the party proves to be toughter than expected. Foul-mouthed but ultimately sweet coming-of-age comedy disguised as throwaway teenage sex farce.

Columbia Pictures presents an Apatow Company production. Starring Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Seth Rogen, Bill Hader; and introducing Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Directed by Greg Mottola; produced by Judd Apatow, Shauna Robertson; written by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg; music by Lyle Workman; director of photography (DeLuxe), Russ Alsobrook; production designer, Chris Spellman; costume designer, Debra McGuire; film editor, William Kerr.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

(USA/Germany, 2007, 115 minutes)

Former CIA black-ops assassin Jason Bourne is chased across the world by his former chiefs who want him dead as he tries to find out the truth about himself and the training program he underwent. Nervous, edgy chase thriller with an overlay of political espionage, so dynamically handled, expertly acted and narratively tight that it may well be the Bourne series’ best film; it completes the narrative cycle of The Bourne Identity (2004, directed by Doug Liman) and The Bourne Supremacy (2006, directed by Paul Greengrass).

Universal Pictures, in association with Motion Picture Beta Productions, presents a Kennedy-Marshall Company production in association with Ludlum Entertainment. Starring Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, Paddy Considine, Edgar Ramirez; with Albert Finney; and Joan Allen. Directed by Paul Greengrass; produced by Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley, Paul L. Sandberg; screenplay by Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns, George Nolfi, based on a story by Tony Gilroy and on the novel The Bourne Ultimatum by Robert Ludlum; music by John Powell; director of photography (DeLuxe/Technicolor, widescreen), Oliver Wood; production designer, Peter Wenham; costume designer, Shay Cunliffe; film editor, Christopher Rouse.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Goodbye Bafana

(Germany/France/Belgium/Italy/South Africa, 2006, 120 minutes)

In 1960s South Africa, an Afrikaner prison warden is assigned to watch over Nelson Mandela during his captivity, and eventually develops a friendly relationship with him. Well-meaning but dull true story that wastes an interesting premise in rote scripting and handling.

A Celluloid Dreams release. Jean-Luc van Damme, Ilann Girard and Andro Steinborg present, in association with Thema Production, a Banana Films/Arsam International/X Filme Creative Pool/Future Films/Fonema/Marmont Film Production/Film Afrika production. Starring Joseph Fiennes, Dennis Haysbert, Diane Kruger. Directed by Bille August; produced by David Wicht, Jean-Luc van Damme, Ilann Girard, Andro Steinborg; screenplay by Greg Latter, dialogue and adaptation by Greg Latter and Bille August, based on the autobiography of James Gregory with Bob Graham, Goodbye Bafana; music by Dario Marianelli; director of photography, Robert Fraisse; production designer, Tom Hannam; costume designer, Diane Cilliers; film editor, Hervé Schneid.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

O Capacete Dourado

(Portugal, 2007, 82 minutes)

A smalltown teenage biker still reeling from his mother’s death in a car crash falls in love with the disturbed daughter of the school’s strict headmaster. Intriguing but ultimately flawed melodrama of teenage life that never decides if it wants to be Romeo & Juliet or Rebel Without a Cause and ends up being neither; flashy style does not make up for narrative shortcomings.

Paulo Branco presents a Clap Filmes production, with financial support from the Culture Ministry-ICAM and RTP. Starring Eduardo Frazão, Ana Moreira, Alexandre Pinto, Rogério Samora. Directed by Jorge Cramez; produced by Paulo Branco; written by Carlos Mota, Rui Catalão; director of photography (colour), Inês Carvalho; production designer, Stephen Malho; costume designer, Yara Jerónimo; film editor, Jaime Freitas.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Kang Shang Qu Hen Mei

Little Red Flowers

(China/Italy, 2005, 91 minutes)

A four-year-old is sent by his parents to a boarding pre-school where he unwittingly becomes the black sheep of his class. Amiable but lightweight kids’ movie whose careful visuals and flimsy plot frame a rebellious subtext about individuality and conformism, performed by a superb mostly all-children cast.

A Fortissimo Films/Film Bureau State Administration of Radio Film & TV presentation. Downtown Pictures, in association with RAI Cinema and Istituto Luce, present a Li Bolun/Allen Chan/Yao Lifeng presentation of a Beijing Century Good Tidings Cultural Development/Huakon Entertainment/CITIC Culture and Sports Enterprises/Downtown Pictures/RAI Cinema/Istituto Luce production. Starring Dong Bowen, Ning Yuanyuan, Chen Manyuan, Zhao Rui, Li Xiaofeng. Directed by Zhang Yuan; produced by Zhang Yuan, Marco Mueller; screenplay by Ning Dai, Zhang Yuan, based on the novel by Wang Shuo, Kang Shang Qu Hen Mei; music by Carlo Crivelli; director of photography (Beijing Film & Video Laboratory), Yang Tao; production designer, Huo Tingxiao; costumes, Huang Baorong; film editor, Jacopo Quadri.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tian Bian Yi Duo Yun

The Wayward Cloud

(France/Taiwan, 2004, 114 minutes)

As Taipei undergoes a drought than makes the sale of watermelons skyrocket, an actor in porn films and an upstairs neighbour enter a romantic relationship. Bewildering but somewhat endearing arthouse experiment that has practically no spoken dialogue and a number of kitsch musical interludes and graphic sex scenes spread throughout its almost non-existent narrative; its obliqueness is extremely typical of its director.

Arena Films and Homegreen Films present an Arena Films production in co-production with Homegreen Films and ARTE France Cinéma, with the support of Centre National de la Cinématographie and the Government Information Office of Republic of China. Starring Lee Kang-Sheng, Chen Shiang-Chyi, Lu Yi-Ching, Yang Kuei-Mei. Directed and written by Tsai Ming-Liang; produced by Bruno Pésery; director of photography (Taipei Motion Picture Corporation), Liao Pen-Jing; production designer, Yip Kam-Tim; costume designer, Shun Hu-Mei; choreography, Peggy Wu.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Casa Nostra

(Italy, 2006, 100 minutes)

Stories of life in modern-day Milan, connected in some way to a hard-headed police detective and a corrupt banker. Mosaic melodrama whose dry framing and oblique structure is let down by a conventional ending that ties everything neatly.

A MK2 Diffusion/01 Distribution release. A Biancafilm/RAI Cinema production. Starring Valeria Golino, Luca Zingaretti, Giuseppe Battiston, Laura Chiatti, Luca Argentero, Bebo Storti, Teco Celio, Fabio Ghidoni. Directed by Francesca Comencini; produced by Donatella Botti; screenplay by Franco Bernini and Francesca Comencini, from a story by Francesca Comencini; music by Banda Osiris and Fabio Gurian; director of photography (CineCittà), Luca Bigazzi; production designer, Paola Comencini; costume designer, Daniela Ciancio; film editor, Massimo Fiocchio.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

2 Days in Paris

(France/Germany, 2006, 96 minutes)

A French photographer and her current American boyfriend spend two days in Paris on their way back to New York from an Italian holiday, during which theirr relationship is put to the test by all sorts of episodes. Amiable romantic comedy that tries to update Woody Allen’s neurotic humour to more modern times, but doesn’t quite pull it off as it starts running on empty after half an hour; still, quite an achievement for its hyphenate star-director.

A Polaris Film Production & Finance and Tempête Sous Un Crane Production presentation/production, in co-production with 3L Filmproduktion, in association with Backup Media, Rezo Films International and Merica Media. Starring Adam Goldberg, Julie Delpy, Marie Pillet, Albert Delpy; and Daniel Brühl. Directed, written, edited and music composed by Julie Delpy; produced by Christophe Mazodier, Julie Delpy, Thierry Potok; director of photography (Cinepostproduction), Lubomir Bakchev; set designer, Barbara Marc; costume designer, Stephan Rollot.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Mighty Heart

(USA/Great Britain, 2007, 107 minutes)

The true story of the search in Pakistan for kidnapped American journalist Daniel Pearl, as seen through the eyes of his wife and of the investigating officers with the Pakistani police and American services. Dynamic police procedural with political overtones, based on an acclaimed memoir; not exactly the star vehicle expected, and all the better for it.

Paramount Vantage presents a Plan B Entertainment/Revolution Films production. Starring Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman, Irrfan Khan, Denis O'Hare, Archie Panjabi, Will Patton, Gary Wilmes. Directed by Michael Winterbottom; produced by Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Andrew Eaton; screenplay by John Orloff, based on the book by Mariane Pearl, A Mighty Heart; music by Molly Nyman, Harry Escott; director of photography (Technicolor, widescreen), Marcel Zyskind; production designer, Mark Digby; costume designer, Charlotte Walker; film editor, Peter Christelis.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mala Noche

(USA, 1985, 78 minutes)

A gay liquor-store clerk falls obsessively in love with a teenage Mexican vagrant who couldn’t care less about him. Low-budget, lyrical study on desire and obsession, ravishingly filmed in a romantic, artistic way.

A MK2 Diffusion release. A Gus van Sant production. Starring Tim Streeter, Doug Cooeyate, Ray Monge. Directed, produced and edited by Gus van Sant; screenplay by Gus van Sant, based on the novel Mala Noche by Walt Curtis; music by Creighton Lindsay; director of photography (b&w, 16mm), John Campbell.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Cet Amour-la

(France, 2000, 99 minutes)

The love affair between celebrated writer Marguerite Duras and Yann Andréa, an admirer many years her junior who became her secretary and lover for the last 16 years of her life. Banal melodrama that doesn't really work either as a biopic or as a May-November romance, but is worth a look because of a mesmerizing lead performance by Jeanne Moreau as Duras.

Alain Sarde presents a Les Films Alain Sarde/ARTE France Cinéma production, with the participation of Canal Plus and Sofica Studio Images 7. Starring Jeanne Moreau, Aymeric Demarigny. Directed by Josée Dayan; screenplay by Josée Dayan, with the collaboration of Yann Andréa, Maren Sell, Gilles Taurand; based on the novel by Yann Andréa, Cet Amour-là; music by Angelo Badalamenti; director of photography (Eclair, Panavision), Caroline Champetier; production designer, Sylvie Fennec; costume designer, Mimi Lempika; film editor, Anne Boissel.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Captivity

(USA/Russia, 2006, 84 minutes)

A successful model is kidnapped and held captive by a mysterious, unknown assailant who seems to delight in torturing and manipulating her. Trashy but stylish exploitation thriller with very proficient technical credits put to the service of a blatantly sick and twisted plotline, which is very good and proper for this sort of thing.

A Lionsgate/After Dark Films release. Foresight Unlimited presents a Foresight Unlimited/Ramco production. Starring Elisha Cuthbert, Daniel Gillies, Micheal Harney, Laz Alonso; and Pruitt Taylor Vince. Directed by Roland Joffé; produced by Mark Damon, Serge Konov, Leonid Minkovski, Gary Mehlman; screenplay by Larry Cohen and Joseph Tura, based on a story by Larry Cohen; music by Marco Beltrami; director of photography (DeLuxe, Panavision), Daniel C. Pearl; production designer, Addis Gadzhiev; costume designer, Jennifer Marlin; film editor, Richard Nord.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Kovak Box

(Spain/Great Britain, 2006, 108 minutes)

In Mallorca for a conference, a science-fiction writer is devastated when his fiancee jumps to her death from a bedroom window, but soon realises similar “suicides” are taking place all over the island and may be connected to the plot of the first novel he wrote. Intriguing mystery with a jumble of clever ideas that make for an uneven script, but still provide some unusually thoughtful genre entertainment.

Filmax Entertainment presents a Estudios Picasso/Castelao Productions production in co-production with Future Films, with the participation of Telecinco, TV3, ICO, Institut Catala de Finances and Generalitat de Barcelona. Starring Timothy Hutton, Lucía Jiménez, David Kelly, Georgia Mackenzie, Gary Piquer as Jaume; and Annette Badland. Directed by Daniel Monzón; produced by Alvaro Augustín, Julio Fernández; written by Daniel Monzón, Jorge Guerrícaechevárria; music by Roque Baños; director of photography (Image Film, widescreen), Carles Gusi; production designer, Antón Laguna; costume designer, Eva Arretxe; film editor, Simon Cozens.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Goya's Ghosts

(Spain, 2006, 113 minutes)

At the end of the 18th century, Spanish royal artist Francisco de Goya witnesses as the destinies of his teenage muse and an opportunist priest intertwine in tragic ways. Cloying, heavy-handed mix of period epic and prestige melodrama bereft of any panache, where only the generally solid acting, some satirical jabs and a couple of bravura scenes remind us of its director’s earlier glories.

Xuxa Producciones presents a Saul Zaentz production. Starring Javier Bardem, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård; and Randy Quaid; José Luis Gómez, Michael Lonsdale. Directed by Milos Forman; produced by Saul Zaentz; written by Milos Forman and Jean-Claude Carrière; music by Varhan Bauer; director of photography (Technicolor), Javier Aguirresarobe; production designer, Patrizia von Brandenstein; costume designer, Yvonne Blake; film editor, Adam Boome.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Contract

(USA/Germany, 2006, 94 minutes)

A hired assassin attempting to escape the police ends up in the custody of a schoolteacher on a camping trip with his son. Rote thriller whose intriguing set-up and solid cast is wasted on clumsy scripting and perfunctory handling.

A Metropolitan Films release. Millennium Films and Emmett-Furla Films present a Revelations Entertainment/Randall Emmett—George Furla/VIP Medienfonds 4 production in association with Millennium Films. Starring Morgan Freeman, John Cusack; Jamie Anderson, Alice Krige, Megan Dodds, Corey Johnson, Jonathan Hyde, Bill Smitrovich, Anthony Warren, Thomas Lockyer. Directed by Bruce Beresford; produced by Andreas Schmid, Les Weldon, Danny Lerner, Avi Lerner, Randall Emmett, George Furla; written by Stephen Katz and John Darrouzet; music by Normand Corbeil; director of photography (colour, widescreen), Dante Spinotti; production designer, Herbert Pinter; costume designer, Kate Healey; film editor, Mark Warner.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Hairspray

(USA, 2007, 116 minutes)

In 1962 Baltimore, talk of the teenage town is the popular “Corny Collins Show”, and a chubby teenager decides to follow her dream of being a dancer in the cast. Screen adaptation of a successful Broadway musical based on the 1987 cult movie of the same name; where the original film was an affectionate spoof of youth exploitation movies, this wants to be the real thing, but despite the note-perfect production design, spot-on songs and game cast, it resolves itself in a series of well-staged but not particularly inventive musical numbers with the barest of connecting narrative.

New Line Cinema presents, in association with Ingenious Film Partners, a Zadan/Meron production, produced in association with Offspring Entertainment. Starring John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Amanda Bynes, James Marsden; and Queen Latifah; Brittany Snow, Zac Efron, Elijah Kelley, Allison Janney, Jerry Stiller, Paul Dooley; and introducing Nikki Blonsky. Directed and choreographed by Adam Shankman; produced by Craig Zadan, Neil Meron; screenplay by Leslie Dixon, based on the original screenplay by John Waters for his 1987 film Hairspray and on the Broadway musical play Hairspray, book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman; music by Marc Shaiman; lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman; director of photography (DeLuxe, widescreen), Bojan Bazelli; production designer, David Gropman; costume designer, Rita Ryack; film editor, Michael Tronick.