Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nim's Island

(USA/Australia, 2008, 95 minutes)

An 11-year old who lives with her marine biologist father in an uncharted tropical island suddenly finds herself on her own when he fails to return from a research sailing trip, and asks her favourite adventure writer for help — unaware that, unlike the novel's dashing hero, she is a recluse... Smart, lively family comedy-adventure, not unlike the better Disney live-action fare of the 1960s but better written and handled.

Walden Media presents a Paula Mazur production; produced with the participation of Pacific Film and Television Commission. Starring Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler. Directed by Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett; produced by Paula Mazur; screenplay by Joseph Kwong, Paula Mazur, Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett, based on the novel by Wendy Orr, Nim's Island; music by Patrick Doyle; director of photography (colour, Panavision), Stuart Dryburgh; production designer, Barry Robison; costume designer, Jeffrey Kurland; film editor, Stuart Levy; visual effects supervisor, Scott Gordon. 

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Babylon A. D.

(France/Great Britain, 2008, 101 minutes)

In an apocalyptic near-future, a jaded mercenary is hired to take a mysterious orphan from a remote convent in Eastern Europe to New York. Muddled, dystopian sci-fi actioner with a history of production troubles that should explain why such an intriguing, if derivative, premise and good production values are so spectacularly and incomprehensibly derailed in a baffling final half hour, but not why its action sequences are so bad. 

A Studiocanal release. Babylon AD SAS and MNP Entreprise present, in association with Studiocanal, a Babylon AD SAS/Babylon Films Limited/M6 Films/Studiocanal production, with the participation of M6, Centre National de la Cinématographie and Canal Plus. Starring Vin Diesel; Mélanie Thierry, Michelle Yeoh, Lambert Wilson, Mark Strong, Jérôme le Banner; with the special participation of Charlotte Rampling and Gérard Depardieu. Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz; produced by Ilan Goldman; screenplay by Mathieu Kassovitz and Éric Besnard, adapted and revised by Joseph Simas, based on the novel by Maurice G. Dantec, Babylon Babies; music by Atli Örvarsson; director of photography (colour, Panavision), Thierry Arbogast; production designers, Sonja Klaus, Paul Cross; costume designers, Chattoune & Fab; film editor, Benjamin Weill; visual effects supervisor, Stéphane Ceretti.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D

(USA, 2007, 92 minutes)

A geophysics professor whose brother disappeared ten years earlier travels all the way to Iceland with his nephew to investigate his findings and discovers a pre-historic world surviving inside the center of the Earth. Amiable special-effects spectacular loosely based on the Jules Verne book, designed primarily as a showcase for the possibilities of digital 3D projection; an agreeable, if forgettable, thrill ride, expertly presented.

A New Line Cinema/Walden Media presentation/production. Starring Brendan Fraser; Josh Hutcherson, Anita Briem, Seth Meyers. Directed by Eric Brevig; produced by Charlotte Huggins, Beau Flynn; screenplay by Michael Weiss, Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin, inspired by the book by Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth; music by Andrew Lockington; director of photography (DeLuxe prints, 3D mastering by Foto-Kem), Chuck Schuman; production designer, David Sandefur; costume designer, Mario Davignon; film editors, Paul Martin Smith, Dirk Westenfeldt, Steven Rosenblum; visual effects supervisor, Christopher Townsend.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Home of the Brave

(USA, 2006, 106 minutes)

The troubled return home of four American soldiers from the Iraq war. Well meaning melodrama that does a disservice to its worthy premise with scripting and dialogue lifted straight off a third-rate TV movie.

A Metropolitan Films release. Millennium Films presents a Winkler-Cowan production, in association with Emmett-Furla Films. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, Brian Presley, Curtis Jackson; Chad Michael Murray. Directed by Irwin Winkler; produced by Avi Lerner, George Furla, Randall Emmett, Irwin Winkler, Rob Cowan; screenplay by Mark Friedman, based on a story by Mark Friedman and Irwin Winkler; music by Stephen Endelman; director of photography (Technicolor, widescreen), Tony Pierce-Roberts; production designer, Warren Alan Young; costume designer, Karyn Wagner; film editor, Clayton Halsey.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Aquele Querido Mês de Agosto

(Portugal/France, 2008, 150 minutes)

A film crew documents Summertime town celebrations in Northern Portugal with a view to doing a teenage love story on location. Intriguing fictional exercise that deconstructs the creative process of making a movie by pointing out the roots of its “puppy love” narrative second half in the quasi-documentary tone of its first half; main drawbacks are overlength, a lack of rhythm in the first part and some wobbly scripting in the second.

An O Som e a Fúria/Shellac Sud presentation/production, with the support of ICA and the participation of RTP. Starring Sónia Bandeira, Fábio Oliveira, Joaquim Carvalho, Andreia Santos, Armando Nunes, Manuel Soares, Emmanuelle Fèvre, Diogo Encarnação, Bruno Lourenço. Directed by Miguel Gomes; produced by Sandro Aguilar, Luís Urbano; written by Miguel Gomes, Mariana Ricardo, Telmo Churro; music supervision and research, Mariana Ricardo; director of photography (Tobis), Rui Poças; production and costume designer, Bruno Duarte; film editors, Telmo Churro, Miguel Gomes. 

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

(USA/Germany, 2008, 119 minutes)

Hellboy and the team from the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense must defeat Prince Nuada, the scion of a long lost people who threatens to extinguish mankind by releasing the indestructible Golden Army. Further adventures of the cult comic-book character first brought to the screen in 2004 by this very same team; this sequel is a lively, visually layered dynamic fantasy that doesn't take itself too seriously and offers a classy throwback to old B-movies.

Universal Pictures presents, in association with Relativity Media, a Lawrence Gordon/Lloyd Levin production in association with Dark Horse Entertainment; in association with Internationale Filmproduktion Eagle Filmproduktiongesellschaft. Starring Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Jeffrey Tambor, Luke Goss, Anna Walton, Seth MacFarlane; and John Hurt. Directed by Guillermo del Toro; produced by Lawrence Gordon, Mike Richardson, Lloyd Levin; screenplay by Guillermo del Toro, based on a story by Guillermo del Toro and Mike Mignola and on the Hellboy comic-books by Mike Mignola; music by Danny Elfman; director of photography (DeLuxe), Guillermo Navarro; production designer, Stephen Scott; costume designer, Sammy Sheldon; film editor, Bernat Vilaplana; visual effects supervisor, Michael J. Wassell; creature and prosthetics VFX supervisor, Mike Elizalde. 

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wall-E

(USA, 2008, 98 minutes)

700 years in the future, humanity has left Earth for the stars after the planet has become one big trash dump; only a stoic little trash-compacting robot remains, but things change when he accidentally finds evidence of plant life. Marvellously ingenious, dazzlingly made animation that is part dystopian sci-fi, part biting satire, mostly near-silent Chaplinesque comedy and all remarkable.

Walt Disney Pictures presents a Pixar Animation Studios film. With the voices of Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, Sigourney Weaver. Directed by Andrew Stanton; produced by Jim Morris; screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, based on a story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter; music by Thomas Newman; directors of photography (DeLuxe/Technicolor, widescreen), Jeremy Lasky, Danielle Feinberg; production designer, Ralph Eggleston; film editor, Stephen Schaffer; sound and voice designer, Ben Burtt; supervising animators, Alan Barillaro, Steven Clay Hunter; effects supervisor, David MacCarthy. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

City Heat

(USA, 1984, 97 minutes)

During the Prohibition, a private detective is murdered and his partner decides to find out who did it and why. Breezy star gangster comedy that is quite enjoyable as long as you do not expect much from it. Original writer and director Blake Edwards left in pre-production due to "creative differences" with the stars, and requested to be credited on the rewritten script as "Sam O. Brown". 

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a Malpaso/Deliverance production. Starring Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds; Jane Alexander, Madeline Kahn, Rip Torn, Irene Cara, Richard Roundtree, Tony Lo Bianco. Directed by Richard Benjamin; produced by Fritz Manes; screenplay by Sam O. Brown (Blake Edwards) and Joseph C. Stinson, based on a story by Sam O. Brown; music by Lennie Niehaus; director of photography (Technicolor), Nick McLean; production designer, Edward Carfagno; costume designer, Norman Salling; film editor, Jacqueline Cambas. 

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mibu Gishi Den

When the Last Sword Is Drawn

(Japan, 2003, 143 minutes)

In 19th century Japan, as the Shogun era is coming to an end, a rural samurai in financial difficulties abandons his clan to head to the city and join the mercenary Shinsengumi samurai militia. Dull, interminable saga that has very little of the expected samurai action and resolves itself into a narratively awkward, manipulative weepie, indifferently filmed; only the acting remains of any interest. 

Shochiku presents a When The Last Sword Is Drawn Film Partners production. Starring Kiichi Nakai, Koichi Sato, Miki Nakatani, Yui Natsukawa, Yuji Miyake. Directed by Yojiro Takita; produced by Hideji Miyajima, Nozomu Enoki; screenplay by Takehiro Nakajima, based on the novel by Jiro Asada, Mibu Gishi Den; music by Joe Hisaishi; director of photography (colour), Takeshi Hamada; production designer, Kyoko Heya; film editors, Isao Tomita, Nobuko Tomita.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Telefon

(USA, 1977, 102 minutes)

A rogue KGB clerk awakens a Cold War-era network of Russian sleeper agents in the US, and the Russians sends a top agent to stop him setting off World War III. B-grade spy thriller, cleverly plotted and briskly handled but hampered by miscast leads and a mystifying computer sub-plot that seems shoehorned from a different film.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents a Siegel film. Starring Charles Bronson, Lee Remick; also starring Tyne Daly; Alan Badel, Patrick Magee, Sheree North; and Donald Pleasence. Directed by Don Siegel; produced by James B. Harris; screenplay by Peter Hyams and Stirling Silliphant, based on the novel by Walter Wager, Telefon; music by Lalo Schifrin; director of photography (Metrocolor), Michael Butler; production designer, Ted Haworth; costume designers, Jane Robinson, Luster Bayless, Edna Taylor; film editor, Douglas Stewart.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

(USA, 2008, 102 minutes)

Former FBI special agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, now leading civilian lives, are asked back to help find a missing agent whose whereabouts seem to be known by a disgraced priest that claims to have psychic visions. This belated second big-screen outing for the cult TV series of the 1990s is essentially a longer, cleverly-scripted stand-alone episode that makes good use of the lengthy break since the series' finale and retains its traditional thoughtful spookiness, but never truly comes together as a movie.

Twentieth Century-Fox presents a Ten Thirteen production; made in association with Dune Entertainment III. Starring David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, Alvin "Xzibit" Joiner, Mitch Pileggi, Callum Keith Rennie. Directed by Chris Carter; produced and written by Frank Spotnitz and Chris Carter; music by Mark Snow; director of photography (DeLuxe, Panavision), Bill Roe; production designer, Mark Freeborn; costume designer, Lisa Tomczeszyn; film editor, Richard A. Harris.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Hottest State

(USA, 2006, 115 minutes)

An aspiring actor falls in love with an aspiring singer, but she eventually breaks his heart. Dull melodrama of modern relationships that takes a very long time to say nothing at all, and doesn't even say that very well despite the earnest performances. A disappointment.

A Thinkfilm release. Entertainment Farm presents a Barracuda Films/Elixir Films production of an Under The Influence film. Starring Mark Webber, Catalina Sandino Moreno; Sónia Braga, Ethan Hawke, Josh Zuckerman; with Laura Linney; and Michelle Williams. Directed by Ethan Hawke; produced by Yukie Kito, Alexis Alexanian; screenplay by Ethan Hawke, from his novel The Hottest State; music and original songs by Jesse Harris; director of photography (DuArt), Christopher Norr; production designer, Rick Butler; costume designer, Catherine Marie Thomas; film editor, Adriana Pacheco Rincón.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Get Smart

(USA, 2008, 107 minutes)

A bumbling intelligence analyst for secret government agency CONTROL dreams of being a field agent and gets his wish when secret villain organisation KAOS uncovers all of CONTROL's agents. Mel Brooks' 1960s TV spy spoof is reinvented as an amiable but overlong action comedy with a game cast doing its best to overcome thin, intermittently funny scripting and rather non-descript handling.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, a Mosaic Media Group/Mad Chance/Callahan Filmworks production. Starring Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin; Terence Stamp, Terry Crews, David Koechner; and James Caan. Directed by Peter Segal; produced by Andrew Lazar, Michael Ewing, Charles Roven, Alex Gartner; screenplay by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember, based on characters created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry; music by Trevor Rabin; director of photography (Technicolor), Dean Semler; production designer, Wynn Thomas; costume designer, Deborah Scott; film editor, Richard Pearson; visual effects supervisor, Joe Bauer.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

(USA/China/Germany, 2008, 111 minutes)

In 1946 China, the tomb of the cursed Dragon Emperor is found, and the O'Connell family steps in to stop the ressuscitated Emperor from taking over the world.Banal, non-descript action spectacular done with an eye towards the lucrative Asian market; none of the Mummy films was much good but this listless caper is the worst yet.

Universal Pictures presents, in association with Shanghai Film Group, Shanghai Happy Cultural Communications Company and Relativity Media, an Alphaville/The Sommers Company production; produced in association with Internationale Filmproduktion Blackbird Vierte. Starring Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Maria Bello, John Hannah, Luke Ford, Chao-Sang Anthony Wong, Isabella Leong, Liam Cunningham, David Calder, Russell Wong; and Michelle Yeoh. Directed by Rob Cohen; produced by Stephen Sommers, Bob Ducsay, Sean Daniel, James Jacks; written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar; music by Randy Edelman; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Simon Duggan; production designer, Nigel Phelps; costume designer, Sanja Milovic Hays; film editors, Joel Negron, Kelly Matsumoto; visual effects supervisors, Joel Hynek, Matthew Butler, Derek Spears.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Sügisball

(Estonia, 2007, 123 minutes)

The misadventures in life and love of a group of people who don't know each other but live in the same housing estate outside Tallinn. Quite well done but relentlessly bleak mosaic melodrama whose cold, distant view of society is leavened by the occasional burst of dark humour.

An Estonian Film Foundation/Tugev Tuul Film/Homeless Bob Production/Kuukulgar Film presentation/production. Starring Rain Tolk, Taavi Eelmaa, Tiina Tauraite, Juhan Ulfsak, Mirtel Pohla, Sulevi Peltola, Maarja Jakobson, Iris Persson. Directed and edited by Veiko Õunpuu; produced by Katrin Kissa; screenplay by Veiko Õunpuu, inspired by the novel by Mati Unt, Sügisball; music by Ülo Krigul; director of photography (colour), Mart Taniel; production designer, Ain Nurmela; costume designer, Helen Ehandi.