Thursday, July 31, 2008

Chapter 27

(USA, 2006, 84 minutes)

In December 1980, Mark Chapman comes to New York to meet John Lennon and ask for his autograph but, over the course of two days, decides to kill him instead. Bewilderingly dull melodrama of psychosis that seems to exist merely as a somewhat distasteful excuse for an actor to prove his acting chops, which he does to no particular effect.

Peace Arch Entertainment presents an Artina Films production. Starring Jared Leto, Judah Friedlander; and Lindsay Lohan. Directed by J. P. Schaefer; produced by Robert Salerno, Naomi Despres, Alexandra Milchan; screenplay by J. P. Schaefer, inspired by the book by Jack Jones, Let Me Take You Down; music by Anthony Marinelli; director of photography (Technicolor), Tom Richmond; production designer, Kalina Ivanov; costume designer, Ane Crabtree; film editors, Jim Makiej, Andrew Hafitz. 

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Dark Knight

(USA, 2008, 152 minutes)

Gotham City is terrorised by the Joker, an anarchic, psychotic, unpredictable killer, and despite the heroic efforts of new DA Harvey Dent, Batman is the only one who can take on him. If the franchise reboot of 2005's Batman Begins was dark, this disquieting sequel from the same team takes it even further, attaching a sleek action-adventure sheen and a classic thriller framework to a bleak meditation on violence and morality, anchored by an extraordinary villain performance by Heath Ledger, who sadly died three months after completing shooting and six months before the film was due to open.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents in association with Legendary Pictures a Syncopy production. Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal; and Morgan Freeman. Directed by Christopher Nolan; produced by Emma Thomas, Charles Roven, Christopher Nolan; screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, based on a story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer and on the comic-book character created by Bob Kane; music by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Wally Pfister; production designer, Nathan Crowley; costume designer, Lindy Hemming; film editor, Lee Smith; visual effects supervisor, Nick Davis; special effects supervisor, Chris Corbould.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Castle Keep

(USA, 1969, 107 minutes)

During WWII, an American squad in the Ardennes is posted to an isolated castle where the normal laws of logic do not seem to apply. Strange, surreal war movie that seems to have come out fully formed from the Twilight Zone; well made but rather bewildering in its obliqueness. 

Columbia Pictures presents, in association with Filmways, a Martin Ransohoff production; a Filmways picture. Starring Burt Lancaster; co-starring Patrick O'Neal, Jean-Pierre Aumont; Scott Wilson, Tony Bill, Al Freeman, Jr.; James Patterson, Bruce Dern, Michael Conrad, Caterina Boratto; introducing Astrid Heeren; and Peter Falk. Directed by Sydney Pollack; produced by Martin Ransohoff and John Calley; screenplay by Daniel Taradash and David Rayfiel, based on the novel by William Eastlake, Castle Keep; music by Michel Legrand; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Henri Decae; art designer, Rino Mondellini; costume designer, Jacques Fonteray; film editor, Malcolm Cooke. 

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Riparo

(Italy/France, 2007, 103 minutes)

A lesbian couple on vacation in Tunisia return to Italy unaware that a Moroccan has sneaked into their car to cross the border and find work abroad; once he's found out, they offer to help him out for a while. Dull problem picture that overloads its thin storyline with too many needless complications and fails to develop them beyond cliche.

Mario Mazzarotto presents an Intelfilm/Adesif Productions presentation/production, in association with RAI Cinema. Starring Maria de Medeiros, Antonia Liskova, Mounir Ouadi, Gisella Burinato, Vitaliano Trevisan, Francesco Cannelutti, Gerhard Koloneci. Directed by Marco Simon Puccioni; produced by Mario Mazzarotto; screenplay by Marco Simon Puccion, Monica Rametta, with the collaboration of Heidrun Schleef, based on a story by Clara Ferri, Monica Rametta; music by Cristiano Fracaro, Dario Arcidiacono; director of photography (Technicolor), Tarak Ben Abdallah; production designer, Emita Frigato; film editor, Roberto Missiroli.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Joy Division

(Great Britain, 2007, 99 minutes)

A documentary tracing the story of influential UK rock band Joy Division. Sober, well-crafted music documentary of interest mainly to specialist audiences. 

A Hudson production, in association with Brown Owl Films. Directed and photographed by Grant Gee; produced by Tom Astor, Tom Atercio, Jacqui Edengrow; written by Jon Savage; researcher, Ed Webb-Ingall; film editor and sound designer, Jerry Chater; graphics and design, Matthew Robertson.  

Friday, July 18, 2008

Surveillance

(USA/Germany/Canada, 2007, 97 minutes)

Two FBI agents arrive at a small town in chase of a notorious serial killer who may have been responsible for a multiple highway crime. Lurid thriller that seems content to deploy unpleasant violence and sadism in the service of a plot so utterly preposterous it doesn't even pass muster.

A Warner Bros. Pictures release. An Arclight Films/Blue Rider Pictures/Lago Film presentation/production, produced in association with Film Star Pictures. Starring Julia Ormond, Bill Pullman, Pell James, Ryan Simpkins, Cheri Oteri, Michael Ironside, French Stewart, Kent Harper, Caroline Aaron, Gill Gayle, Hugh Dillon. Directed by Jennifer Lynch; produced by Kent Harper, David Michaels, Marco Mehlitz; written by Jennifer Lynch and Kent Harper; music by Todd Bryanton; director of photography (colour, Panavision), Peter Wunstorf; production designer, Sara McCudden; costume designers, Cathy McComb, Sonja Clifton-Remple; film editor, Daryl K. Davis. 

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

(USA, 2008, 146 minutes)

A year after finding themselves back in wartime England, the four Pevensie siblings are spirited back to the magical land of Narnia, where they find a thousand years have passed and they must help the young prince Caspian to reclaim his throne from the hands of an evil regent to bring peace to the land once more. The second book in C. S. Lewis' popular children's series becomes a dullish, interminable, charmless adventure that resolves itself in a series of well-handled fight and battle scenes and, despite reuniting all of the cast and crew of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, fails to recapture its charm and magic.

Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media present a Mark Johnson/Silverbell Films production. Starring Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Ben Barnes, Peter Dinklage, Pierfrancesco Favino; and Sergio Castellitto. Directed by Andrew Adamson; produced by Mark Johnson, Andrew Adamson, Philip Steuer; screenplay by Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, from the novel by C. S. Lewis, Prince Caspian; music by Harry Gregson-Williams; director of photography (DeLuxe/Technicolor, widescreen), Karl Walter Lindenlaub; production designer, Roger Ford; costume designer, Isis Mussenden; film editor, Sim Evan-Jones; visual effects supervisors, Dean Wright, Wendy Rodgers; special make-up effects and creatures by Gregory Nicotero and Howard Berger.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Batman Begins

(USA, 2005, 140 minutes)

Disgusted with the cavalier disregard of the Gotham City authorities for justice, millionaire heir Bruce Wayne returns to the metropolis after a spell exploring the underworld and sets himself up as a masked avenger saving the corrupt city from its criminal element. Although the fifth in the contemporary series of Batman adventures, this is in fact the first of a new series that retells the “origin story” of the comic-book super-hero in darker, grittier and more realistic terms and with a surprisingly mature ambiguity in its approach to themes of heroism, courage and justice. Not exactly kids' entertainment, and all the better for it.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a Syncopy/Patalex III Productions production. Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe, Mark Boone Junior, Linus Roache; and Morgan Freeman. Directed by Christopher Nolan; produced by Emma Thomas, Charles Roven, Larry Franco; screenplay by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, based on a story by David S. Goyer and on the comic-book character created by Bob Kane; music by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard; director of photography (Technicolor prints, Panavision), Wally Pfister; production designer, Nathan Crowley; costume designer, Lindy Hemming; film editor, Lee Smith; visual effects supervisors, Janek Sirrs, Dan Glass. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Once

(Ireland, 2007, 86 minutes)

A Dublin busker meets a Czech immigrant who recognises the talent in his songs and presses him to make a demo tape; but are they falling in love? Deceptively engaging drama-with-music that is essentially an Irish Brief Encounter carried along by music, but much better than that description makes it seem; there's a genuine charm to the rough-around-the-edges handling and performances by the leads (who are not professional actors but singers).

A Summit Entertainment/Samson Films presentation/production, in association with Bord Scannán na hÉireann/The Irish Film Board and RTÉ. Starring Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova. Directed and written by John Carney; produced by Martina Niland; songs by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova; director of photography (colour), Tim Fleming; production designer, Tamara Conboy; costume designer, Tiziana Corvisieri; film editor, Paul Mullen.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tropa de Elite

Elite Squad

(Brazil/USA, 2007, 114 minutes)

In 1997 Rio de Janeiro, a SWAT team leader about to become a father looks to train a replacement to lead his drug-busting squad. Violent actioner with documentary overtones that was a huge hit in its native Brazil but has nothing new to offer foreign audiences beyond its exotic setting and energetic handling.

The Weinstein Company, Costa Films and The Latin American Film Company present a Weinstein Company/Posto 9/Feijão Filmes production of a Zazen Produções film, in co-production with Universal Pictures do Brasil and Mega Filmes, in association with Quanta and Costantini Films. Starring Wagner Moura, André Ramiro, Caio Junqueira, Milhem Cortaz, Paulo Vilela, Fernanda de Freitas, Márcia Ribeiro, Fábio Lago. Directed by José Padilha; produced by Marcos Prado, José Padilha; written by José Padilha, Rodrigo Pimentel, Bráulio Mantovani; music by Pedro Bromfman; director of photography (Technicolor), Lula Carvalho; art director, Tulé Peake; costume designer, Cláudia Kopke; film editor, Daniel Rezende.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Les Amours d'Astrée et de Céladon

The Romance of Astrea and Celadon

(France/Italy/Spain, 2006, 109 minutes)

In 9th century Gaul, a benevolent nymph helps a heartbroken couple of shepherd lovers to make up and get together again. Charming, airy location-shot medieval romance employing untested talent, whose endearing ingenuity and academic appearance masks a tone-perfect control of filmmaking.

A Rezo Films release. Françoise Etchegaray, Jean-Michel Rey, Philippe Liègeois present a Rezo Productions/Compagnie Éric Rohmer/BIM Distribuzione/Alta Producciones co-production, supported by Eurimages; in association with Cofinova 3, ARTE/Cofinova 2, Cinémage and Soficinéma 2, with the participation of Canal Plus and Centre National de la Cinématographie. Starring Andy Gillet, Stéphanie Crayencour, Cécile Cassel, Véronique Reymond, Rosette, Jocelyn Quivrin, Mathilde Mosnier, Rodolphe Pauly; and Serge Renko. Directed by Éric Rohmer; produced by Françoise Etchegaray, Jean-Michel Rey, Philippe Liègeois; screenplay by Éric Rohmer, adapted from the novel by Honoré d'Urfé, L'Astrée; music by Jean-Louis Valero; director of photography (Eclair), Diane Baratier; costume designers, Pierre-Jean Larroque, Pu-Laï; film editor, Mary Stephen.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wanted

(USA/Germany, 2008, 109 minutes)

A put-upon office worker finds out he is the son of a murdered hitman and, being recruited into the secret society his father belonged to, finds out he has skills he has never dreamed of. Sleek but outrageous comic-book actioner that is a lively thrill ride as long as you don't take it seriously.

Universal Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment present, in association with Relativity Media, a Marc Platt/Kickstart production in association with Top Cow; produced in association with Ringerike Luftfahrtbeteiligungs. Starring James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Terence Stamp, Thomas Kretschmann, Common; and Angelina Jolie. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov; produced by Marc Platt, Jim Lemley, Jason Netter, Iain Smith; screenplay by Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, Chris Morgan, based on a story by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas and on the comic-book series Wanted by Mark Millar and J. G. Jones; music by Danny Elfman; director of photography (DeLuxe, Panavision), Mitchell Amundsen; production designer, John Myhre; costume designer, Varya Avdyushko; film editor, David Brenner; visual effects supervisors, Stefen Fengmeier, Jon Farhat. 

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Funny Games

aka Funny Games U. S.

(France/Germany/Italy/Great Britain/USA/Austria, 2007, 111 minutes)

A well-off family is terrorised in their own vacation home by two young men whose courtly manners belie their sadism. Remake of the 1997 cerebral shocker/critique of violence (delete as applicable) by the original director that switches the location (now Long Island) but nothing more; while the content remains unchanged and acting and handling remain of a high standard, this seems to be more of a purely intellectual, and rather superfluous, exercise that adds nothing to the original film.

A Warner Independent Pictures release. Celluloid Dreams and Warner Independent Pictures present a Halcyon Pictures/Tartan Films/Celluloid Dreams/X-Filme International/Lucky Red production, in association with Belladonna and Kinematograf. Starring Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, Devon Gearhart. Directed and written by Michael Haneke; produced by Hengameh Panahi, Christian Baute, Andro Steinborn, Chris Coen and Hamish McAlpine; director of photography (Technicolor prints), Darius Khondji; production designer, Kevin Thompson; costume designer, David Robinson; film editor, Monika Willi.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Rails & Ties

(USA, 2007, 100 minutes)

A childless couple in crisis is reconciled when an orphaned boy finds his way into their lives. Run-of-the-mill melodrama with better credits than its hackneyed script merits.

A Warner Bros. Pictures presentation/production. Starring Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay Harden, Marin Hinkle, Eugene Byrd, Laura Cerón, Margo Martindale; and Miles Heizer as Davey. Directed by Alison Eastwood; produced by Robert Lorenz, Peer Oppenheimer, Barrett Stuart; written by Micky Levy; music by Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Tom Stern; production designer, James J. Murakami; costume designer, Deborah Hopper; film editor, Gary D. Roach. 

Monday, July 07, 2008

Shakespeare Behind Bars

(USA/Great Britain, 2005, 92 minutes)

One year in the life of the theatre programme “Shakespeare Behind Bars” at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in Kentucky, during which a cast of inmates rehearses and performs The Tempest. Excellent, life-affirming documentary that deals with forgiveness and redemption but never whitewashes its subjects' flaws.

Independent Television Service presents, in association with the BBC, a Philomath Films production; produced in association with the Independent Television Service and the BBC; funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the JKW Foundation; developed with the assistance of the Sundance Institute; supported by a grant from the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund. Directed and written by Hank Rogerson; produced by Jilann Spitzmiller; music by James Wesley Stemple; director of photography (colour), Shana Hagan; film editor, Victor Livingston.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Hancock

(USA, 2008, 92 minutes)

A struggling PR man hits upon giving an image makeover to a grumpy, disaster-prone, reluctant super-hero after he saves his life. Smart star action comedy with a clever twist on the super-hero genre; it loses its way halfway through and has too many tonal shifts, but remains an unusually intriguing take on the genre. 

Columbia Pictures presents, in association with Relativity Media, a Blue Light/Weed Road Pictures/Overbrook Entertainment production. Starring Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman, Eddie Marsan. Directed by Peter Berg; produced by Akiva Goldsman, Michael Mann, Will Smith, James Lassiter; written by Vy Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan; music by John Powell; director of photography (Deluxe, Panavision), Tobias Schliessler; production designer, Neil Spisak; costume designer, Louise Mingenbach; film editors, Paul Rubell, Colby Parker Jr.; visual effects designed by John Dykstra; digital effects supervisor, Kee-Suk Ken Hahn. 

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

(USA, 2008, 93 minutes)

In medieval China, an overweight panda is unexpectedly chosen to become the Dragon Warrior of prophecy — to everybody's astonishment. Sweet dreams-come-true comedy that is thankfully short on smart-aleck wisecracks but doesn't quite do justice to its inspired premise; not a problem when the animation is this extraordinary.

A Paramount Pictures release of a Dreamworks Animation presentation/production. With the voices of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Randall Duk Kim, James Hong; and Jackie Chan. Directed by Mark Osborne, John Stevenson; produced by Melissa Cobb; screenplay by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, from a story by Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris; music by Hans Zimmer and John Powell; production designer, Raymond Zibach; film editor, Clare Knight.