Saturday, March 28, 2009

Duplicity

(USA/Germany, 2009, 125 minutes)

Two former secret agents now working in corporate espionage join forces to doublecross their employers, but are they playing fair with each other? Smart throwback to the espionage comedies of the 1960s and 70s with a trace of corporate satire thrown in — but maybe a bit too smart for its own good. 

A Universal Pictures presentation/production, in association with Relativity Media; in association with Medienproduktion Poseidon Filmgesellschaft. Starring Julia Roberts, Clive Owen; Tom Wilkinson; and Paul Giamatti. Directed and written by Tony Gilroy; produced by Jennifer Fox, Kerry Orent, Laura Bickford; music by James Newton Howard; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Robert Elswit; production designer, Kevin Thompson; costume designer, Albert Wolsky; film editor, John Gilroy.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

(USA, 2009, 89 minutes)

The story of how the vampire/werewolf feud at the centre of Underworld and Underworld: Evolution started, a thousand years ago. Third in the series is a lively if disposable comic-book B-actioner designed as a prequel to the previous pictures, with an enjoyably surprising star turn.

Screen Gems and Lakeshore Entertainment present a Lakeshore Entertainment production in association with Sketch Films. Starring Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, Rhona Mitra, Steven Mackintosh, Kevin Grevioux. Directed by Patrick Tatopoulos; produced by Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Len Wiseman, Richard Wright; screenplay by Danny McBride, Dirk Blackman and Howard McCain, based on a story by Len Wiseman, Robert Orr and Danny McBride and on characters created by Kevin Greviouxm, Len Wiseman and Danny McBride; music by Paul Haslinger; director of photography (DeLuxe, Panavision), Ross Emery; production designer, Dan Hennah; costume designers, Jane Holland, Wendy Partridge; film editor, Peter Amundson; creatures designed by Patrick Tatopoulos; visual effects supervisor, James McQuaide.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Choke

(USA, 2008, 91 minutes)

A recovering sex addict with a difficult relationship with his ailing mother finds himself attracted to the new doctor taking care of her — to the point of actually losing his sex drive. Skewed but sweet romantic comedy posing as cynical sex satire.

ATO Pictures presents a Contrafilm/ATO Pictures production. Starring Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston; Kelly Macdonald, Brad William Henke, Jonah Bobo, Heather Burns, Paz de la Huerta, Clark Gregg, Joel Grey, Viola Harris, Gillian Jacobs, Matt Malloy, Bijou Phillips, Isiah Whitlock Jr. Directed by Clark Gregg; produced by Beau Flynn, Tripp Vinson, Johnathan Dorfman, Temple Fennell; screenplay by Clark Gregg, based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, Choke; music by Nathan Larson; director of photography (DeLuxe), Tim Orr; production designer, Roshelle Berliner; costume designer, Catherine George; film editor, Joe Klotz.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Spirit

(USA, 2008, 102 minutes)

A seemingly invulnerable masked crimefighter tries to unravel the connection between a former flame who has become a jewel thief and his drug-dealiung nemesis. Clunky, grating big-screen adaptation of a cult comic strip that veers wildly between hardboiled film noir homage, cartoonish comedy and hyper-stylized, chiaroscuro comic-book visuals, and never hits the right tone. A miss.

An Oddlot Entertainment/Lionsgate presentation/production. Starring Gabriel Macht, Eva Mendes, Sarah Paulson, Dan Lauria, Paz Vega, Eric Balfour, Jaime King; with Scarlett Johansson; and Samuel L. Jackson. Directed by Frank Miller; produced by Deborah del Prete, Gigi Pritzker, Michael E. Uslan; screenplay by Frank Miller, based on the comic-book characters by Will Eisner; music by David Newman; director of photography (colour, Panavision), Bill Pope; art director, Rosario Provenza; costume designer, Michael Dennison; film editor, Gregory Nussbaum; visual effects supervisor, Stu Maschowitz. 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Corte do Norte

The Northern Land

(Portugal, 2008, 127 minutes)

The imperious younger daughter of rundown provincial nobility becomes obsessed with solving the mystery of the strange disappearance of her scandalous great-great-grandmother. Baroquely romantic family saga, breathtakingly photographed and theatrically staged; its ponderous, funereal rhythm and elaborate narrative pretty much limits its audience.

António da Cunha Telles and Pandora da Cunha Telles present a Filmes de Fundo production, supported by ICA and RTP. Starring Ana Moreira; Ricardo Aibéo, Rogério Samora, Custódia Gallego, Lígia Roque, Laura Soveral, João Ricardo, Marcello Urgeghe, Margarida Vila-Nova; special guests, Fernanda Borsatti, Rita Blanco, Virgílio Castelo. Directed by João Botelho; screenplay by João Botelho, based on the novel by Agustina Bessa-Luís, A Corte do Norte; director of photography (colour), João Ribeiro; production designer, Catarina Amaro; costume designer, Sílvia Grabowski; film editor, João Braz. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

Marley & Me

(USA, 2008, 113 minutes)

Two married journalists get a pet Labrador that turns out to be an adorable pest. A real-life bestseller about “the worst dog in the world” becomes an indifferent, disposable romantic comedy with occasional canine antics.

A Twentieth Century-Fox release. Fox 2000 Pictures and Regency Enterprises present a Gil Netter/Sunswept Entertainment production; made in association with Dune Entertainment III. Starring Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston; Eric Dane, Kathleen Turner; and Alan Arkin. Directed by David Frankel; produced by Karen Rosenfelt, Gil Netter; screenplay by Scott Frank and Don Roos, based on the book by John Grogan, Marley and Me; music by Theodore Shapiro; director of photography (DeLuxe, widescreen), Florian Ballhaus; production designer, Stuart Wurtzel; costume designer, Cindy Evans; film editor, Mark Livolsi.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Che

(France/Spain/USA, 2008; Part One, The Argentine, 129 minutes; Part Two, Guerrilla, 131 minutes)

Argentine doctor Ernesto “Che” Guevara becomes one of the leaders of Fidel Castro's Cuban revolutionary army throughout the long campaign that leads them to take control of Havana; ten years later, he leads Bolivian guerrillas into a crushing defeat at the hands of the country's military dictatorship that costs him his life. Stubbornly admirable but admittedly infuriating biopic that deliberately avoids all of the genre's rules and pitfalls and focuses on the formative and decaying periods of its nominal hero's life. Premiered at the Cannes film festival of 2008 as a single, 260-minute movie, the film was released internationally in two separate parts, with a few countries presenting the full length as a “roadshow version”.

Wild Bunch and Telecinco Cinema present a Laura Bickford/Telecinco Cinema/Morena Films production, with the collaboration of ICAA. Starring (part one) Benicio del Toro; Demián Bichir, Santiago Cabrera, Vladimir Cruz, Pablo Guevara, Jsu García, Elvira Mínguez, Julia Ormond, Jorge Perugorría, Edgar Ramírez, Victor Rasuk, Othello Rensoli, Armando Riesco, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Rodrigo Santoro, Unax Ugalde, Yul Vázquez. Starring (part two) Benicio del Toro; Carlos Bardem, Demián Bichir, Joaquim de Almeida, Carlos Durán, Eduard Fernández, Marc-André Grondin, Óscar Jaenada, Khalil Méndez, Cristian Mercado, Jordi Mollà, Antonio Peredo, Jorge Perugorría, Lou Diamond Phillips, Franka Potente, Othello Rensoli, Armando Riesco, Néstor Rodulfo, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Norman Santiago, Rodrigo Santoro, Mark Umbers, Yul Vázquez. Directed and photographed (under the alias Peter Andrews; Technicolor, Panavision part one only) by Steven Soderbergh; produced by Laura Bickford and Benicio del Toro; screenplay by (part one) Peter Buchman, based on Memoirs of the Cuban Revolutionary War by Ernesto Guevara, (part two) Peter Buchman and Benjamin A. van der Veen, based on The Bolivian Diary by Ernesto Guevara; music by Alberto Iglesias; production designer, Antxón Gómez; New York sequences production designer, Philip Messina; costume designer, Bina Daigeler; New York sequences costume designer, Louise Frogley; film editor, Pablo Zumárraga. 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Adam Resurrected

(Israel/Germany, 2008, 107 minutes)

In 1961 Israel, a former magician who survived the Holocaust but carries deep scars that have confined him to an experimental asylum bonds with a feral boy who thinks he is a dog. Surrealist drama that spins a fascinatingly absurdist web from its premise, making for often uncomfortable viewing despite an extraordinary, and under-recognised, leading performance.

Bleiberg Entertainment and 3L Filmproduktion present, with the support of Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen, The Cinema Project, Filmförderungsanstalt, Hot and Pictorion Pictures, an Ehud Bleiberg/Werner Wirsing production. Starring Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe; Derek Jacobi, Ayelet Zurer, Hana Laszlo, Joachim Król; with Tudor Rapiteanu; and Moritz Bleibtreu. Directed by Paul Schrader; produced by Ehud Bleiberg, Werner Wirsing; screenplay by Noah Stollman, based on the novel by Yoram Kaniuk, Adam Resurrected; music by Gabriel Yared; director of photography (colour, widescreen), Sebastian Edschmid; production designer, Alexander Manasse; costume designer, Inbal Shuki; film editor, Sandy Saffeels. 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

L'Heure d'été

Summer Hours

(France, 2008, 103 minutes)

After their mother dies, three siblings have to decide what to do with the country estate where she lived and with the extensive art collection that belonged to their great-uncle and that she kept. Moving but uneven family drama that runs out of breath in the final stretch.

An MK2 Diffusion release of a MK2 presentation/production, in co-production with France 3 Cinéma; with the participation of Canal Plus and TPS Star; in partnership with Musée d'Orsay; with the support of Région Île-de-France in partnership with CNC; in association with Cofinova 4 and Soficinéma 3. Starring Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, Jérémie Rénier, Edith Scob, Dominique Reymond, Valérie Bonneton, Isabelle Sadoyan, Alice de Lencquesaing, Émile Berling. Directed and written by Olivier Assayas; produced by Marin Karmitz, Natanaël Karmitz, Charles Gillibert; director of photography (Arane Gulliver), Éric Gautier; production designer, François-Renaud Labarthe; costume designers, Anaïs Romand, Jürgen Doering; film editor, Luc Barnier.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Watchmen

(USA, 2009, 161 minutes)

In an alternative America where Richard Nixon has gone on to win a third term as President and the Cold War rages on, an outlawed band of super-heroes comes together to find out why one of them has been murdered. Dense, bleak, adult horror comic that is so faithful to its dense, bleak, adult comic-book original to the point of having little identity of its own other than as an adaptation; there is, however, much to admire in the universe created and in the earnest performances.

Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures present, in association with Legendary Pictures, a Lawrence Gordon/Lloyd Levin production. Starring Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson. Directed by Zack Snyder; produced by Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Deborah Snyder; screenplay by David Hayter and Alex Tse, based on the graphic novel Watchmen written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons; music by Tyler Bates; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Larry Fong; production designer, Alex McDowell; costume designer, Michael Wilkinson; film editor, William Hoy; visual effects supervisor, John "DJ" DesJardins.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Man on Wire

(Great Britain/USA, 2007, 93 minutes)

In August 1974, French wirewalker Philippe Petit walked a tightrope rigged between the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York; thirty years later, he and his team remember the occasion. Smart documentary that picks up on a forgotten fait-divers of its day and spins an interesting moodpiece on remembrance and dreams off of it, but looks sometimes more at ease on the small screen.

Discovery Films, BBC Storyville and the UK Film Council present a Wall to Wall production, in association with Red Box Films. Directed by James Marsh; produced by Simon Chinn; based on the book by Philippe Petit, To Reach the Clouds; music by Michael Nyman, J. Ralph; director of photography (Duart/DeLuxe), Igor Martinovic; production designer (reconstruction sequences), Sharon Lomofsky; costume designer (reconstruction sequences), Kathryn Nixon; film editor, Jinx Godfrey. 

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Patti Smith: Dream of Life

(USA, 2007, 108 minutes)

A portrait of rock singer and poetess Patti Smith. Not the expected straight-forward biographical documentary, but rather an impressionistic, textured look at the subject's life and work, lovingly and painstakingly assembled but probably too esoteric for general consumption.

A Celluloid Dreams release of a Clean Socks/Thirteen WNET New York presentation/production. Directed by Steven Sebring; produced by Steven Sebring, Margaret Smilow, Scott Vogel; incidental music by Oliver Ray, Tony Shanahan, Emery Dobyns, Greg Smith; directors of photography (Duart/Technicolor), Phillip Hunt, Steven Sebring; film editors, Angelo Corrao and Lin Polito.,