Saturday, January 30, 2010

Invictus

(USA/South Africa, 2009, 129 minutes)

In 1994, as Nelson Mandela is elected president of South Africa, he takes up the cause of the country's national rugby team, the Springboks, closely identified with the apartheid regime and about to host the rugby world cup. The old-fashioned inspirational sports drama is given a political spin in this well-done but rather workmanlike filming of a true story.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Spyglass Entertainment, a Revelations Entertainment/Man Company/Malpaso production; produced with assistance from the Department of Trade and Industry of South Africa.
Starring Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon; Tony Kgoroge, Julian Lewis Jones, Adjoa Andoh; Patrick Mofokeng, Matt Stern, Leleti Khumalo.
Directed by Clint Eastwood; produced by Clint Eastwood, Lori McCreary, Robert Lorenz, Mace Neufeld; screenplay by Anthony Peckham, based on the book by John Carlin, Playing the Enemy; music by Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Tom Stern; production designer, James J. Murakami; costume designer, Deborah Hopper; film editors, Joel Cox, Gary D. Roach; visual effects supervisor, Michael Owens.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Bela e o Paparazzo

(Portugal, 2010, 105 minutes)

A TV star fed up with her celebrity falls in love, without knowing it, with the celebrity photographer who's been following her every step. Amiable romantic comedy that gently ribs celebrity culture.

Tino Navarro presents a MGN Filmes production, in co-production with RTP; with the participation of Zon Lusomundo; with financial support from FICA and ICA. 
Starring Soraia Chaves, Marco d'Almeida, Nuno Markl, Pedro Laginha, Virgílio Castelo, Maria João Luís, Ivo Canelas, Maria João Falcão; special participation by Nuno Homem de Sá; and Nicolau Breyner.
Directed by António-Pedro Vasconcelos; produced by Tino Navarro; written by Tiago R. Santos; music by José M. Afonso; director of photography (Tobis), José António Loureiro; production designer, João Torres; costume designer, Isabel Carmona; film editor, Pedro Ribeiro.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Antichrist

(Denmark/Germany/Belgium/Sweden/Italy/Poland/France, 2009, 108 minutes)

Traumatised by the accidental death of their two-year-old son, a Seattle couple move to a remote cabin in the woods for the psychiatrist husband to help the wife recover – but a sense of evil seems to take over.
Bewildering combination of hysterical melodrama and moody psychological horror jolted to life by a number of rather gratuitous and quite unpleasant graphic shots of violence and sex; while the presentation and performances are undeniably talented, the director doesn't quite seem to know where he's getting at.

A Zentropa Entertainments23 presentation/production; executive co-produced by Zentropa International Köln, Slot Machine; co-produced by Memfis Film, Trollhättan Film, Lucky Red, Zentropa International Poland; also co-produced by Danmarks Radio, ARTE France Cinéma, ZDF-ARTE, Groupe Grand Accord, Film i Väst, Sveriges Television; with the participation of Centre National de la Cinématographie, Canal Plus, TrustNordisk, SF Film, Nordisk Film Cinema Distribution; with the support of the Danish Film Institute, Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Deutscher Filmförderfonds, Nordisk Film & TV Fond, Polish Film Institute, Swedish Film Institute. 
Starring Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Directed and written by Lars von Trier; produced by Meta Louise Foldager; director of photography (Nordisk Film Shortcut, widescreen), Anthony Dod Mantle; production designer, Karl "Kalli" Juliusson; costume designer, Frauke Firl; film editor, Anders Refn; visual effects supervisor, Peter Hjorth; make-up effects and special props, Morten Jacobsen, Thomas Foldberg. 

Friday, January 22, 2010

Staten Island

(France/USA, 2008, 96 minutes)

The fates of a small-time mobster, a septic tank cleaner and a deaf-mute deli worker get unexpectedly entangled. Fiendishly plotted mosaic crime drama whose quirky mood shifts needed a steadier directing hand to work.

An Europacorp (int'l) release. Why Not US and Europacorp present an Europacorp/Why Not US production in association with Open City Films. 
Starring Ethan Hawke, Vincent d'Onofrio, Seymour Cassel, Julianne Nicholson.
Directed and written by James de Monaco; produced by Luc Besson, Pierre-Ange le Pogam, Pascal Caucheteux, Sébastien K. Lemercier; music by Frédéric Verrières; director of photography (Technicolor, widescreen), Christopher Norr; production designer, Stephen Beatrice; costume designer, Rebecca Hoffherr; film editors, Hervé de Luze, Christel Dewynter. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Up in the Air

(USA, 2009, 109 minutes)

A corporate downsizer who spends most of his year travelling and lives out of a carry-on bag finds his jet-setting lifestyle may be about to end when a newly hired executive suggests the firings could be made by video-conferencing. What starts out as breezy comedy with some satirical barbs becomes fully-fledged bitter-sweet character study as it moves forward, carried by a perfectly cast lead whose performance is so attuned to the film's subtle mood shifts that it looks effortless.

Paramount Pictures presents, in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios, a Montecito Picture Company production in association with Rickshaw Productions and Right of Way Films.
Starring George Clooney; Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Danny McBride, Melanie Lynskey, Amy Morton, Sam Elliott, J. K. Simmons, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Lowell. 
Directed by Jason Reitman; produced by Daniel Dubiecki, Jeffrey Clifford, Ivan Reitman, Jason Reitman; screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, based on the novel by Walter Kirn, Up in the Air; music by Rolfe Kent; director of photography (DeLuxe), Eric Steelberg; production designer, Steve Saklad; costume designer, Danny Glicker; film editor, Dana E. Glauberman. 

Friday, January 15, 2010

Nine

(USA/Italy, 2009, 118 minutes)

In 1965 Rome, a blocked film director whose next shoot starts in a week has no idea what it will be about.
Glossy and smart but pointless star-studded adaptation of a minor Broadway musical adapting Fellini's classic 8 ½; it's obvious everyone did their best and you probably couldn't do it any better or with more class, but it's all a bit of a stretch.

The Weinstein Company and Relativity Media present a Weinstein Brothers/Marc Platt/Lucamar/Relativity Media production in association with JAC Film & Television; co-producer, Cattleya; Broadgate Films. 
Starring Fergie, Kate Hudson, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz, Marion Cotillard; and Sophia Loren; Daniel Day-Lewis.
Directed by Rob Marshall; produced by Marc Platt, Harvey Weinstein, John de Luca, Rob Marshall; screenplay by Michael Tolkin and Anthony Minghella, based on the musical play Nine, book by Arthur Kopit, music and lyrics by Maury Yeston; songs, music and lyrics by Maury Yeston; original score by Andrea Guerra; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Dion Beebe; production designer, John Myhre; costume designer, Colleen Atwood; film editors, Claire Simpson, Wyatt Smith; choreographers, John de Luca, Rob Marshall.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Das weisse Band — Eine Deutsche Kindergeschichte

The White Ribbon

(Germany/Austria/France/Italy, 2009, 140 minutes)

A number of strange incidents cast a pall over a German village just prior to World War I. Austere, elegant combination of mystery and social drama that overlays its director's usual themes and clinical handling over a period framework with considerable skill and success.

An X-Filme Creative Pool/Wega Film/Les Films du Losange/Lucky Red co-production, in collaboration with ARD Degeto, Bayerischer Rundfunk, ORF, France 3 Cinéma, France 3, Canal Plus, TPS Star; with the support of Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung, Filmförderungsanstalt, Minitraité, Deutsche Filmförderfonds, Austrian Film Institute, Filmfonds Wien, Centre National de la Cinématographie. 
Starring Christian Friedel, Ernst Jacobi, Leonie Benesch; Ulrich Tukur, Ursina Lardi, Fion Mutert, Michael Kranz; Burghart Klaussner, Steffi Kühnert, Maria-Victoria Dragus, Leonard Proxauf, Levin Henning, Johanna Busse, Yuma Amecke, Thibault Sérié; Josef Bierbichler, Gabriela Maria Schmeide, Janina Fautz, Enno Trebs, Theo Trebs; Rainer Bock, Susanne Lothar, Roxane Duran, Miljan Chatelain, Eddy Grahl; Branko Samarovski, Birgit Minichmayr, Sebastian Hülk, Kai Malina, Kristina Kneppek, Stephanie Amarell, Bianca Mey, Aaron Denkel, Mika Ahrens; Detlev Buck, Anne-Kathrin Gummich.
Directed and written by Michael Haneke; producers, Stefan Arndt, Veit Heiduschka, Margaret Ménégoz, Andrea Occhipinti; screenplay consultant, Jean-Claude Carrière; director of photography (b&w), Christian Berger; production designer, Christoph Kanter; costume designer, Moidele Bickel; film editor, Monika Willi.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Living End

(USA, 1992, 84 minutes)

A freelance writer in Los Angeles finds out he is HIV-positive and hooks up with a similarly positive male prostitute who believes his status places him above law and society. What seems on the surface a rather bewildering homemade hodge-podge of styles and ideas disguised as a no-budget road movie needs context to be fully understood as one of the key movies of the American “queer cinema” of the early 1990s.

A Strand Releasing/Desperate Pictures presentation/production.
Starring Craig Gilmore and Mike Dytri.
Directed, written, photographed (in colour) and edited by Gregg Araki; original music by Cole Coonce.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ruas da Amargura

(Portugal, 2008, 110 minutes)

The daily lives of seven poor and/or homeless people on the streets of Lisbon. Solid documentary that gingerly sidesteps all-too-easy editorialising, preferring to let its articulate subjects do the talking; a slight trim in the length wouldn't harm.

A Real Ficção presentation/production of a Rui Simões production; financing by ICAM, RTP, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian.
With Helena Anacleto, Carlos Ferreira, Manuel Vicente, Cidália Pratas, Manuel Barbosa, Fernando Moedas, Nataliya Kuzmenko, Maria de Fátima Mendes, Bárbara Ramos Dias, Vítor Rodrigues.
Directed by Rui Simões; camera (color), Marta Pessoa; sound, Marta Pessoa, Nathalie Mansoux, Samuel Ribeiro; film editor, Márcia Costa.

Monday, January 11, 2010

$9.99

(Australia/Israel, 2008, 78 minutes)

The dreary lives of the tenants of an apartment building are touched by a series of bizarre events. Intriguing, moving mosaic drama, part Short Cuts and part The Twilight Zone, exquisitely filmed in stop-motion animation, in a style that perfectly fits the story's whimsical developments.

A Fortissimo Films presentation. Film Finance Corporation Australia and Israel Film Fund present, in association with The New South Wales Film and Television Office, Crossfield, Yes, Keshet, a Sherman Pictures/Lama Films production.
With the voices of Geoffrey Rush, Anthony la Paglia, Samuel Johnson, Barry Otto, Joel Edgerton, Claudia Karvan, Ben Mendelsohn, Leeanna Walsman, Jamie Katsamasas, Brian Meegan, Roy Billing, David Field, Leon Ford, Tom Budge, Henry Nixon, Richard Clendinnen, Emile Sherman, Ursula Yovich, Lee Perry.
Directed by Tatia Rosenthal; produced by Emile Sherman, Amir Harel; screenplay by Etgar Keret and Tatia Rosenthal, based on short stories by Etgar Keret; music by Christopher Bowen; directors of photography (colour), Susan Stitt, James Lewis, Richard Bradshaw; animators, Sharon Parker, Jan-Erik Maas, Steven Cox, Daniel Alderson, Antony Elsworthy, Norman Yeend, Yonatan Bereskin, Andrew Spilsted, Darren Burgess; production designer, Melinda Doring; costume designer, Caroline Sherman; editing consultant and animatics editor, Dany Cooper; fine cut editing consultant, Yosef Grunfeld. 

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cendres et sang

(France/Romania/Portugal, 2009, 99 minutes)

A widower and her three grown-up children return to her native country for a family wedding and find themselves embroiled in the blood feud that drove her away in the first place. Muddled melodrama that aims for operatic tragedy but, despite seductive visuals and a couple of good performances, has neither the chops nor the ideas to pull it through successfully.

Paulo Branco presents an Alfama Films Production/ARTE France Cinéma/DD Productions/Hirsch/Libra Film production; associate production Clap Filmes; with the participation of Centre National de la Cinématographie, Canal Plus, Cinécinéma, Romanian National Film Centre, Rádio e Televisão de Portugal.
Starring Olga Tudorache, Andrei Finti, Razvan Vasilescu, Grégoire Roger, Marinela Ion, Madalina Constantin, Ronit Elkabetz, Tudor A. Istodor, Celina Nitu, Florentina Nastase, Marc Ruchmann, Abraham Belaga, Claire Bouanich, Ion Besoiu, Adrian Paduraru, Daniel Pisleaga, Maria Arabo, Gabriela Finca, Usama al Homani, Ion Cosma, Andrei Aradits, Vlad Radescu.
Directed and written by Fanny Ardant; produced by Paulo Branco; music by David Moreau; director of photography (GTC, Panavision), Gérard de Battista; art director, Isabel Branco; wardrobe, Nicoleta Carnu; film editor, Celia Lafitedupont.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Road

(USA, 2009, 111 minutes)

In a devastated, post-apocalyptic America, a man and his son travel towards the coast merely trying to stay alive. Bleak, harrowing melodrama of hope and loss based on a Pulitzer-winning novel; impressively done, but very hard to take.

Dimension Films and 2929 Productions present a Nick Wechsler/Chockstone Pictures production; in association with Michael Lavelle. 
Starring Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Molly Parker, Michael Kenneth Williams, Garret Dillahunt; and Charlize Theron.
Directed by John Hillcoat; produced by Nick Wechsler, Paula Mae Schwartz, Steve Schwartz; screenplay by Joe Penhall, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, The Road; music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis; director of photography (Technicolor, widescreen), Javier Aguirresarobe; production designer, Chris Kennedy; costume designer, Margot Wilson; film editor, Jon Gregory. 

Friday, January 08, 2010

Where the Wild Things Are

(USA/Australia/Germany, 2009, 97 minutes)

A young boy runs off from a motherly reprimand and finds himself in an island inhabited by large monsters who hail him as their king but turn out to be too close to his real life for comfort. A fondly remembered children's classic becomes a daringly reimagined, whimsical melodrama about the end of childhood that perfectly recaptures what it is to be a child but is hardly a children's movie and needed some more spontaneity to work; an admirable try, though, much plagued by production troubles.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Legendary Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures, a Playtone/Wild Things production; with the assistance of Film Victoria; in association with KLG Film Invest.
Starring Max Records, Catherine Keener; and Mark Ruffalo; Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, Paul Dano, James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara, Forest Whitaker.
Directed by Spike Jonze; produced by Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, John Carls, Maurice Sendak, Vincent Landay; screenplay by Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers, based on the book by Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are; music by Karen O and Carter Burwell; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Lance Acord; production designer, K. K. Barrett; costume designer, Casey Storm; film editors, Eric Zumbrunnen, James Haygood; animation and visual effects supervisor, Daniel Jeannette.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Bright Star

(Great Britain/Australia, 2009, 119 minutes)

In 1818 London, the romance between poet John Keats and resolute youngster Fanny Brawne, the daughter of the neighbour next door. Superbly rendered minor-key true-life romance that complete eschews traditional biopic rules to become an intensely affecting, subtly classic melodrama.

Pathé, Screen Australia, BBC Films and The UK Film Council present, in association with the New South Wales Film and Television Office and Hopscotch Entertainment, a Jan Chapman production in association with Caroline Hewitt; a co-production of Brightstar Films and Jan Chapman Productions. 
Starring Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw, Paul Schneider, Kerry Fox.
Directed and written by Jane Campion; produced by Jan Chapman, Caroline Hewitt; music by Mark Bradshaw; director of photography (Technicolor/Atlab Australia), Greig Fraser; production and costume designer, Janet Patterson; film editor, Alexandre de Franceschi.