Thursday, December 31, 2009

Un Prophète

(France/Italy, 2009, 149 minutes)

Condemned to six years in jail, a young, illiterate small-time crook of Algerian ascent rises through the ranks to become a criminal kingpin. Taut, intense thriller that cleverly hides a coming-of-age story and a character study under the conventions of the prison movie, impressively sustained by a strong leading performance from a virtual unknown actor.

A UGC release (in France). Chic Films, Page 114, Why Not Productions present a Why Not Productions/Chic Films/Page 114/France 2 Cinéma/UGC Images/Bim Distribuzione/Celluloid Dreams co-production; with the participation of France 2, Canal Plus, Cinécinéma; with the support of Région Île-de-France, Région Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur in partnership with Centre National de la Cinématographie; in association with Sofica UGC 1, Sofica Soficinéma 4, Sofica Soficinéma 5.
Starring Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif, Reda Kateb, Hichem Yacoubi, Jean-Philippe Ricci, Gilles Cohen, Pierre Leccia, Antoine Basler, Foued Nassah, Jean-Emmanuel Pagni, Frédéric Graziani.
Directed by Jacques Audiard; screenplay by Thomas Bidegain and Jacques Audiard, based on an original screenplay by Abdel Raouf Dafri and Nicolas Peufaillit and on a story by Abdel Raouf Dafri; music by Alexandre Desplat; director of photography (Eclair), Stéphane Fontaine; production designer, Michel Barthélémy; costume designer, Virginie Montel; film editor, Juliette Welfling.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

(USA, 1966, 129 minutes)

A newly-arrived teacher at a university campus and his wife are invited over for drinks by the college president's daughter and her teacher husband, and find themselves at the centre of a full-fledged marital storm. A successful Broadway play becomes a landmark movie in Hollywood history simply by being extremely faithful to its source and refusing to gloss over the original's foul language and suggestive mind games; however, there is also much to admire in the consistently excellent acting and in its sensitive, intelligent handling.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents an Ernest Lehman production.
Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton; also starring George Segal, Sandy Dennis.
Directed by Mike Nichols; screenplay by Ernest Lehman, based on the play by Edward Albee, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; music by Alex North; director of photography (b&w), Haskell Wexler; production designer, Richard Sylbert; costume designer, Irene Sharaff; film editor, Sam O'Steen.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sherlock Holmes

(USA/Germany, 2009, 123 minutes)

Victorian detective Sherlock Holmes must summon all his extraordinary powers of deduction to crack the case of an occultist nobleman who has apparently returned from the dead. Rather ill-advised attempt at turning a much-loved character into an action hero palatable to contemporary audiences; the result is still enjoyable thanks to the excellent cast and the impeccable production values.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association wil Village Roadshow Pictures, a Silver Pictures/Wigram production; in association with Internationale Filmproduktion Blackbird Zweite.
Starring Robert Downey Jr.; Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly.
Directed by Guy Ritchie; produced by Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey, Dan Lin; screenplay by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg, based on a story by Lionel Wigram and Michael Robert Johnson and on characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle; music by Hans Zimmer; director of photography (Technicolor), Philippe Rousselot; production designer, Sarah Greenwood; costume designer, Jenny Beavan; film editor, James Herbert; visual effects supervisor, Chas Jarrett.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Avatar

(USA, 2009, 165 minutes)

In the year 2154, a paraplegic former soldier is shipped to the distant planet Pandora where he is given a second lease on life through inhabiting the genetically created body of a native Na'vi – and finds himself having to choose sides in the war brewing between natives and humans. Old-fashioned “stranger in a stranger land” exotic adventure given a clever if underscripted science-fiction spin and heightened by the astounding visuals (originally projected in digital 3D).

Twentieth Century-Fox presents, in association with Dune Entertainment and Ingenious Film Partners, a Lightstorm Entertainment production.
Starring Sam Worthington, Zoë Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Wes Studi, Laz Alonso; and Sigourney Weaver.
Directed and written by James Cameron; produced by James Cameron, Jon Landau; music by James Horner; director of photography (DeLuxe, widescreen), Mauro Fiore; production designers, Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg; costume designers, Mayes C. Rubeo, Deborah L. Scott; film editors, Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua, James Cameron; senior visual effects supervisor, Joe Letteri; WETA visual effects supervisors, Stephen Rosenbaum, Eric Saindon, Dan Lemmon, Guy Williams; animation directors, Richard Baneham, Andrew R. Jones; conceptual design, costume and specialty props, Richard Taylor. 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Gamer

(USA, 2009, 93 minutes)

In the near future, a video game mogul introduces a violent combat game where the players actually direct real-life, flesh and blood people picked from death row; but the star warrior is there for a different reason. Disturbing, none-more-bleak satire disguised as ultra-violent, voyeuristic frenzied action movie, wanting to have its cake and eat it too – and actually succeeding up to a point. Not for the weak or faint of heart.

Lionsgate and Lakeshore Entertainment present a Lakeshore Entertainment/Lionsgate production.
Starring Gerard Butler; Michael C. Hall, Amber Valletta, Logan Lerman, Terry Crews, John Leguizamo, Zoë Bell, John de Lancie, Aaron Yoo, Justin Chase, Noel Gugliemi; with Chris "Ludacris" Bridges; and Kyra Sedgwick.
Directed and written by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor; produced by Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Skip Williams, Richard Wright; music by Robert Williamson and Geoff Zanelli; director of photography (Riot!, DeLuxe), Ekkehart Pollack; production designer, Jerry Fleming; costume designer, Alix Friedberg; film editors, Peter Amundson, Fernando Villena, Doobie White; visual design and motion graphics supervisor, Garson Yu; special make-up effects designed and conceived by Christien Tinsley.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Les Beaux gosses

(France, 2009, 88 minutes)

Misadventures of two nerdy high school friends who dream of having their first sexual experience. Amiable and occasionally very funny but rather shapeless comedy of teenage mores.

A Pathé release. Anne-Dominique Toussaint presents a Les Films des Tournelles/Pathé Production/Studio 37 production, in association with Cinémage 3, Cofimage 20, La Banque Populaire Images 2; with the participation of Canal Plus, TPS Star.
Starring Vincent Lacoste, Anthony Sonigo, Alice Trémolières; Noémie Lvovsky; with the participation of Emmanuelle Devos, Irène Jacob, Valeria Golino; and the special participation of Jean-Pierre Hargneré.
Directed by Riad Sattouf; produced by Anne-Dominique Toussaint; screenplay by Riad Sattouf, Marc Syrigas, based on an idea by Riad Sattouf; music by Flairs and Riad Sattouf; director of photography (Arane Gulliver), Dominique Colin; production designer, Marie Cheminal; costume designer, Mimi Lempicka; film editor, Valerie Bruant. 

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Afterschool

(USA, 2008, 107 minutes)

A loner student at an elite East Coast prep school accidentally captures on video the deaths by drug overdose of the school's favourite seniors. Impressively constructed melodrama of adolescent existentialism, invoking classic European art cinema with flair and updating it for our modern media society with intelligence.

A Borderline Films production, in association with Hidden St. Productions; with the support of the Cinéfondation; with the support of Young Indies. 
Starring Ezra Miller, Jeremy White, Emory Cohen, Michael Stuhlbarg, Addison Timlin, David Costable, Rosemarie de Witt, Dariusz Michal Uczkowski, Gary Wilmes, Lee Wilkof, Paul Sparks, Bill Raymond, Alexandra Neil, Mark Zeisler, Chris McCann; also starring Birdie Bell; Mary Michelsen and Carly Michelsen.
Directed, written and edited by Antonio Campos; produced by Josh Mond and Sean Durkin; director of photography (colour, widescreen), Jody Lee Lipes; production designer, Kris Moran; costume designer, Catherine Akana. 

Friday, December 11, 2009

Zombieland

(USA, 2009, 84 minutes)

In a US overcome by a zombie epidemic, four survivors stick together to reach Los Angeles in search of... well, not even they know exactly what. Brisk, inventive little comedy that plays the zombie card for laughs, not unlike a US Shaun of the Dead with a strong cartoon influence.

Columbia Pictures presents, in association with Relativity Media, a Pariah production.
Starring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone; and Abigail Breslin.
Directed by Ruben Fleischer; produced by Gavin Polone; written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick; music by David Sardy; director of photography (DeLuxe, Panavision), Michael Bonvillain; production designer, Maher Ahmad; costume designer, Magali Guidasci; film editors, Peter Amundson, Alan Baumgarten; visual effects supervisor, Paul Linden.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Agora

(Spain, 2009, 125 minutes; cut from Cannes premiere length of 141 minutes)

In 391 AD, in Alexandria, philosopher Hypatia tries to resist the rising tide of radical Christianism for its denial of science and knowledge. Imposing, accomplished attempt at fashioning a swords-and-sandals epic out of ideas, extraordinarily if somewhat stately presented.

A Focus Features International release. A Mod Producciones/Himenóptero/Telecinco Cinema presentation/production, with the participation of Canal Plus España and the support of ICAA. 
Starring Rachel Weisz, Max Minghella, Oscar Isaac, Ashraf Barhom, Rupert Evans, Homayoun Ershad; and Michael Lonsdale.
Directed by Alejandro Amenábar; produced by Fernando Bovaira, Álvaro Augustin; written by Alejandro Amenábar, Mateo Gil; music by Dario Marianelli; director of photography (Fotofilm Deluxe, widescreen), Xavi Giménez; production designer, Guy Hendrix Dyas; costume designer, Gabriella Pescucci; film editor, Nacho Ruiz Capillas; visual effects supervisor, Félix Bergés.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Fora da Lei

(Portugal, 2006, 82 minutes)

A documentary about a Portuguese lesbian couple who are forced to move and are unable to find a job after they make an attempt at marrying legally. Unassuming and sincere documentary that dwells at length on the pain homophobia inflicts but whose reportage approach makes it more at home on the small screen.

A Midas Filmes DVD release (in Portugal) of a Videamus production.
Directed, photographed and edited by Leonor Areal; edited in collaboration with Miguel Marques.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Snow Angels

(USA, 2006, 106 minutes)

A high school student finds himself falling in love with a school mate just as his parents are divorcing and a co-worker at the restaurant where he part-times is having a hard time separating from her husband. Alternately sensitive and harrowing minor-key mosaic drama that cleverly sidesteps the genre clichés while providing many well-observed, well-acted and well-scripted pleasures.

A Warner Bros. Pictures (in the US) release. Crossroads Films and True Love Productions present a Crossroads Films production; produced with the assistance of the Nova Scotia Film Industry Tax Credit.
Starring Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, Michael Angarano, Jeannetta Arnette, Griffin Dunne, Nicky Katt, Tom Noonan, Connor Paolo, Amy Sedaris, Olivia Thirlby.
Directed by David Gordon Green; produced by Dan Lindau, R. Paul Miller, Lisa Muskat and Cami Taylor; screenplay by David Gordon Green, based on the novel by Stewart O'Nan, Snow Angels; music by David Wingo, Jeff McIlwain; director of photography (colour), Tim Orr; production designer, Richard Wright; costume designer, Kate Rose; film editor, William Anderson.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Vinyan

(GB/France/Belgium, 2008, 92 minutes)

A European couple who lost their son in the 2005 tsunami that devastated Thailand follow a long shot hint of the wife, who believes she has seen the child on footage shot by an NGO worker, into the deepest jungles of Burma. Daring, hallucinatory drama on the fringe of horror, that is remarkably staged and handled and refuses – sometimes to its detriment - to pander to audience expectations.

A Wild Bunch release. Michael Gentile and Film 4 present a The Film/Pilchard Productions/One Eyed/K2/RTBF/BeTV co-production, in association with Wild Bunch, Backup Films, Motion Investment Group, Coficup 1&2, ARTE, Cofinova 3; with the participation of Canal Plus, Cinécinéma; with the support of Centre du Cinéma et de l'Audiovisuel de la Communauté Française de Belgique, Télédistributeurs Wallons, Procirep, Angoa/Agicoa. 
Starring Emmanuelle Béart, Rufus Sewell.
Directed by Fabrice du Welz; produced by Michael Gentile; written by Fabrice du Welz, with additional material by David Creig, additional dialogue by Olly Blackburn, and the collaboration of Glenn Burney; music by François-Eudes Chanfrault; director of photography (Kantana Lab/Oriental Post, widescreen), Benoît Debie; production designer, Arin Pinijvararak; wardrobe supervisor, Géraldine Picron; film editor, Colin Monie; sound designer, Frédéric Meert. 

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Paranormal Activity

(USA, 2009, 86 minutes)

Trying to find the origin of the mysterious sounds that have been keeping them up at night, a San Diego couple sets up a video camera in their bedroom at night and realise a mysterious, supernatural presence is haunting their house. Rather old-fashioned haunted-house tale that relies on mood and suggestion rather than blood and gore given a modern sheen through its “found footage”/”home movie” angle; made for a pittance at the director's own place and shelved for two years, it became a surprise, $100-million-grossing hit.

An IM Global release (international). Blumhouse Productions presents a Paramount Pictures release of an Oren Peli/Solana Films production. 
Starring Micah Sloat, Katie Featherston, Mark Fredrichs.
Directed, written and edited by Oren Peli; produced by Oren Peli, Jason Blum.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Uma Aventura na Casa Assombrada

(Portugal, 2009, 96 minutes)

A group of teenage friends help one of them look for a mystical diamond hidden in an old and supposedly haunted family house. Amateurish adventure for kids from a long-running series of books; there's a nugget of a good story here, thrown out in clumsy handling and hurried scripting.

Valentim de Carvalho Multimedia presents a Valentim de Carvalho Filmes production in co-production with SIC.
Starring Sara Salgado, Francisco Areosa, Margarida Martinho, Mariana Martinho, César Brito, Luís Lucas Lopes, Sandra Barata Belo, Ricardo Carriço, Sofia Grillo, Ana Padrão, Leonor Seixas, André Maia, João Didelet; with the special participation of Ricardo Pereira, Maria Emília Correia, Luís Mascarenhas, Jorge Corrula.
Directed by Carlos Coelho da Silva; produced by Manuel S. Fonseca; screenplay by Ricardo Leitão, Pedro Marta Santos, Carlos Coelho da Silva, based on the book by Ana Maria Magalhães, Isabel Alçada, Uma Aventura na Casa Assombrada; music by João Pedro Coimbra; director of photography (Tobis), Carlos Santana; art director, Augusto Mayer; costume designer, Sílvia Meireles; film editors, Pedro Santana, Ricardo Mesquita.

Friday, December 04, 2009

O' Horten

(Norway/Germany/France, 2007, 88 minutes)

A train conductor about to retire realises he has no idea what to do with his life once he does retire. Quirkily dry and very Scandinavian comedy of loneliness that meanders pleasantly but somewhat aimlessly towards its conclusion.

A The Match Factory release (internationally). A Bulbul Films presentation/production, in co-production with Pandora Filmproduktion, ZDF/ARTE, Memento Films International, ARTE France Cinéma and Scanbox; with the support of the Norwegian Film Fund, Nordisk Film & TV Fond and Norwegian Film Development.
Starring Bård Owe, Espen Skjønberg, Ghita Nørby, Henny Moan, Bjørn Floberg, Kai Remlov, Per Jensen.
Directed, produced and written by Bent Hamer; music by Kaada; director of photography (Nordisk Film), John Christian Rosenlund; production designer, Kalli Juliusson; costume designer, Anne Pedersen; film editor, Pål Gengenbach with Silje Nordseth.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky

(France, 2009, 117 minutes)

In 1920, renowned fashion designer Coco Chanel becomes a patron to composer Igor Stravinsky by setting him up to work and live at her suburban mansion with his family, but a love affair soon follows. Glossy but hollow melodrama that titillates with a lot of softcore sex scenes but never really explains why or how the two titular characters ever got in love with each other; however, the opening 30 minutes, recreating the 1913 Paris premiere of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, are a truly stunning piece of filmmaking.

A Wild Bunch release. Claudie Ossard and Chris Bolzli present a Eurowide Film Production production, in association with Filmazure; with the participation of Canal Plus and TPS Star; with the participation of Wild Bunch; with the support of Région-Île-de-France, in partnership with Centre National de la Cinématographie; in association with Cinemage 3. 
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Anna Mouglalis, Elena Morozova, Natacha Lindinger, Grigori Manoukov, Rasha Bukvic, Anatole Taubman.
Directed by Jan Kounen; produced by Claudie Ossard, Chris Bolzli; screenplay by Chris Greenhalgh, adapted by Carlo de Boutiny and Jan Kounen, based on the novel by Chris Greenhalgh, Coco & Igor; music by Gabriel Yared; director of photography (LTC/Duboicolor/Scanlab, Panavision), David Ungaro; production designer, Marie-Hélène Sulmoni; costume designers, Chattoune and Fab; film editor, Anny Danche; choreography, Dominique Brun.