Saturday, September 29, 2012

DREDD

Homegrown where Danny Cannon's 1995 ill-fated Sylvester Stallone vehicle was bowdlerised for American tastes, this new attempt at filming John Wagner's controversial futuristic comic-book hero, scripted by writer Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine) seems to take its perverse pleasure out of giving the finger to Hollywood's comic adaptations rulebook. No love interest, no sexuality whatsoever, no softening of the almost casual brutality of the original comics that, in some way, reflected the state of things at the time of its creation in a Great Britain about to be swept up by the punk revolution.

     Dredd is a nasty, ultra-violent metaphor of crime-ridden anarchy gone global in a post-apocalyptic society where the all-powerful judges are the only measure of justice, filmed as a non-stop action-thriller-cum-video-game that doesn't ever stop to take prisoners and ends up leaving a brittle, bitter after-taste in the mouth. Just like some of the most extreme Asian thrillers of recent years, Dredd gives audiences the violent action they've come for - and more, in a "be careful what you wish for" style. But it's also a derivatively ingenious mash-up of a "first-day-on-the-job" cop plot (here, rookie judge Cassandra Anderson, played by Olivia Thirlby, is assigned to Karl Urban's monolithic Dredd for a make-or-break day in the field) with the Carpenterian urban westerns like Escape from New York or Assault on Precinct 13 (Dredd and Cassandra find themselves locked inside a mega-project controlled by drug queen Lena Headey, behind a new highly addictive opiate called slo-mo).

     The end result reminds me of last year's Indonesian cult hit The Raid: Redemption in its relentless, violent action pushed through the futuristic roof of Mark Digby's seedy urban landscapes and Anthony Dod Mantle's gritty cinematography. It's a dangerously disturbing piece of work whose streamlined missile approach never dwells on the points it wants to make about society; it merely moves speedily while hoping you get it the first time out, in the best tradition of blink-and-you'll-miss-it genre programmers.

Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Wood Harris, Langley Kirkwood

Director: Pete Travis
Screenplay: Alex Garland, from the comic-book characters created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra
Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle (colour, processing by Technicolor, widescreen, 3D)
Music: Paul Leonard-Harris
Designer: Mark Digby
Costumes: Michael O'Connor, Dianna Cilliers
Editor: Mark Eckersley
Visual effects: Jon Thum
Producers: Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich, Mr. Garland, Jason Kingsley, Chris Kingsley (Rena Film and Peach Tree Film for Reliance Entertainment, IM Global and DNA Films)
South Africa/United Kingdom/India/USA, 2012, 96 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Colombo 1 (Lisbon), September 21st 2012


Friday, September 28, 2012

LES ADIEUX À LA REINE (FAREWELL MY QUEEN)

In keeping with the political crisis lashing out at the world, French veteran Benoît Jacquot's latest film tells the story of the last days of the French monarchy through the eyes of one of the "little" people. In the days surrounding the July 1789 fall of the Bastille, Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux), reader to the infamous Marie-Antoinette (Diane Kruger), lends her eyes and ears to the viewer as she runs through the hallways of Versailles witnessing the apocalypse of the upper classes. However, Sidonie is not quite one of the "little people": her secluded life of effective servitude raises her above the people, but her proximity to the aristocracy is not enough to make her one of them.

     What she is, though, is madly in love with her mistress: understanding of what she perceives as the queen's misery, a pretty bird locked in a gilded cage without much opportunity to spread her wings - or maybe even without much desire - but also madly in lust with her polished, beautiful perfection. This leads Sidonie, who would do - and indeed does - anything for Marie-Antoinette, to see current queen's favourite Gabrielle de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen) as a dangerous rival, but also makes her painfully aware of her secondary status in the wasps' nest that is Versailles: disenchanted with being little more than a pet or an heirloom, someone to be used on a whim then discarded without further thought, and exalted by being in such closeness to these glamorous but ultimately feckless courtiers.

     Gloriously shot by Mr. Jacquot and his cinematographer Romain Winding as a classically refined period piece in the manner of Upstairs Downstairs or countless others tales of masters and servants, Farewell My Queen does not pretend to be a strictly historical piece, nor does it hide its origins as a novel. What Mr. Jacquot is after is in fact something else: a slyly subversive exploration of female desire and attraction, channeling mystery, sexuality and surprise through Ms. Seydoux's delicately defying performance and the director's attention to his cast's faces and to the characters' spatial settings that define so much of who they are.

Cast: Léa Seydoux, Diane Kruger, Virginie Ledoyen, Xavier Beauvois, Noémie Lvovsky, Michel Robin, Julie-Marie Parmentier, Lolita Chammah, Vladimir Consigny, Marthe Caufman

Director: Benoît Jacquot
Screenplay: Gilles Taurand, Mr. Jacquot, from the novel Farewell, My Queen by Chantal Thomas
Cinematography: Romain Winding (colour, widescreen)
Music: Bruno Coulais
Designer: Katia Wyzskop
Costumes: Christian Gasc
Editors: Luc Barnier, Nelly Ollivault
Producers: Jean-Pierre Guérin, Kristina Larsen, Pedro Uriol (GMT Productions, Les Films du Lendemain, Morena Films, France 3 Cinéma, Euro Media France, Invest Image)
France/Spain, 2012, 99 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Medeia Monumental 2 (Lisbon), September 20th 2012


Thursday, September 27, 2012

SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist screenwriter Lorene Scafaria moves into the director's chair with this surprisingly engaging romantic comedy with a twist: it's a boy-meets-girl love story set in the three weeks before an asteroid slams into Earth and ends life as we know it. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World thus plays like a deadpan afterthought to Armageddon if that film hadn't had a happy ending, or like a cheerier version of Deep Impact. The meet-cute of morose loser Dodge (Steve Carell still able to wring emotion from his typecasting) and ditzy neighbour Penny (Keira Knightley channeling all the Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotypes) in a non-descript American metropolis is intercut with all sorts of disconnected urban social satire around the impending apocalypse. Said satire is faultlessly delivered by a series of comedian cameos (Rob Corddry or Patton Oswalt) in a cross-section of modern America designed to strip away the romance to its essence: what if all you have time for is to boil things down to boy-meets-girl?

     Ms. Scafaria's film never finds the proper balance between the sweet love story about people who finally meet their twin souls and the savage civilizational satire of a world on its last legs. But the matter-of-fact way in which she addresses it, as if Lars von Trier had gained a sense of humour before doing Melancholia or if Abel Ferrara had retooled his disappointing 4:44 Last Day on Earth for the indie-hipster set, along with the winning pairing and very unlikely chemistry of Ms. Knightley and Mr. Carell, make Seeking a Friend for the End of the World a particularly unusual entry into the romantic-comedy genre.

Cast: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Connie Britton, Adam Brody, Rob Corddry, Derek Luke, Melanie Lynskey, William Petersen

Director/writer: Lorene Scafaria
Cinematography: Tim Orr (colour, processing by Technicolor, Deluxe prints, widescreen)
Music: Rob Simonsen, Jonathan Sadoff
Designer: Chris Spellman
Costumes: Kristin M. Burke
Editor: Zene Baker
Producers: Steve Golin, Joy Gorman Wettels, Steven Rales, Mark Roybal (Focus Features, Mandate Pictures, Indian Paintbrush Productions, Anonymous Content, Dodge Productions)
USA, 2011, 100 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Colombo 1 (Lisbon), September 19th 2012

Saturday, September 22, 2012

WEEKEND

There is something wrong when the best you can do to describe such a quiet little gem as Weekend is saying it's "the gay Before Sunrise". That's pretty much damning Andrew Haigh's engagingly low-key tale of the beginning of a romantic relationship with faint praise, by boxing it in a shelf that belittles it. Weekend is not primarily a queer film or a gay love story, it is essentially a romantic drama about two lonely people getting to know each other; also, there is little of the constant chattering of Richard Linklater's cult movie. In fact, Weekend is much closer to the dramatic realist template we identify with classic British filmmaking, only entirely removing the social subtexts (for once, it's not about class) and focussing on emotions and feelings. The casual gay hook-up between shy lifeguard Russell (Tom Cullen) and brash artist Glen (Chris New) is closer to the "brief encounter" of David Lean's mid-1940s classic, throwing two people into an unexpected spin about to be stymied by chance.

     In Mr. Haigh's minutely yet warmly observed drama, attentive to its characters but never intruding, it's Glen's upcoming departure to the USA for a two-year art degree that renders so heartbreakingly bitter-sweet the spot-on description of those first, tentative, exhilarating moments when you realise you may have just found the one you have been looking for only to have to relinquish it. Strongly structured as a scripted drama with enough room for the occasional cast improvisation, Weekend is a lovely, accomplished film where nothing much happens except life, and where anyone may recognise his or her own feelings regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

Cast: Tom Cullen, Chris New, Jonathan Race, Laura Freeman

Director, writer, editor: Andrew Haigh
Cinematography: Ula Pontikos  (colour, processing by Technicolor)
Designer and costumes: Sarah Finlay
Producer: Tristan Goligher (Glendale Picture Company in co-production with The Bureau Film Company and Syncronicity Films, in association with EM Media)
United Kingdom, 2011, 97 minutes

Screened: DVD, Lisbon, September 12th 2012


Friday, September 21, 2012

BRIGHTON ROCK

The remake debate goes another round with this new take on Graham Greene's 1938 novel of crime in Brighton, whose 1947 filming by the Boulting brothers gave Richard Attenborough his career-defining role as an actor. Here, Last Resort and The American screenwriter Rowan Joffe, in his directing debut, updates the story to the 1964 mod riots in Brighton, while keeping intact the tale of mob hand Pinkie Brown (a seething Sam Riley) and his purely calculating courtship of hard-bitten but naïve waitress Rose (Andrea Riseborough) strictly to ensure she won't denounce him for murder.

     The seediness of the Brighton cheap holiday milieu remains intact, and Mr. Joffe's instincts are to run with the film noir aspect of the plot, fetishizing the period crime angle through a thick series of nice visual flourishes that heighten the ironic tragedy of it all: Rose hasn't necessarily any illusions regarding Pinkie's guilt, but she can't help loving him because he appeared to care for her more than any other man in her life. The writer/director has said his film is more of a new adaptation of the book rather than a remake of the Boulting film (though in fact Mr. Joffe lifts the coda straight from it), and his is an interesting take, by presenting the story as a "last gasp" of an old England about to vanish under the pop culture revolution of the 1960s: Pinkie's mentor and gang boss Kite, whose death gets the ball rolling, is presented as a former army man lost in the modern days; Mr. Riley's Pinkie is an angry young man with ambitions beyond his league and a comeuppance from his elders due any minute; Ms. Riseborough's Rose is a miserable working-class girl ready to do anything that will allow her to escape her familial prison, even if she is merely exchanging one prison for another.

     Mr. Joffe's handling can sometimes be too flashy and flamboyant for the film's good, but his blatant "everything but the kitchen sink" approach isn't ill suited to a tale that he decided to film as a combination of "angry young men" sordid realism and hyper-romanticised film noir. It may not always work, but at least Brighton Rock follows through on its convictions, and the generally high level of the performances mean there's really never a dull moment.

Cast: Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Andy Serkis, John Hurt, Helen Mirren

Director: Rowan Joffe
Screenplay: Mr. Joffe, from the novel Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
Cinematography: John Mathieson  (colour, processing by Technicolor, Panavision widescreen)
Music: Martin Phipps
Designer: James Merifield
Costumes: Julian Day
Editor: Joe Walker
Producer: Paul Webster (Kudos Pictures for Studiocanal Features, BBC Films and The UK Film Council)
United Kingdom/France, 2010, 110 minutes

Screened: DVD, Lisbon, September 16th 2012


Thursday, September 20, 2012

TO ROME, WITH LOVE

After London, Barcelona and Paris, the Woody Allen European Grand Tour moves to Rome - and throws away any good will built by the worldwide success of Midnight in Paris on a dismayingly below-par portmanteau comedy, suggesting Mr. Allen has by now become effectively an upscale Neil Simon. Granted, To Rome, with Love, structured as four unconnected episodes linked by their Rome setting (which reminds far too much of Mr. Simon's Plaza Suite for comfort) - does have a true love for classic cinema; it reminds us of the Italian episode films and classic comedies of the 1950s and 1960s (no points for guessing which Italian star of that era Penélope Cruz's big-hearted prostitute is meant to evoke). But it also shows just how much Mr. Allen is currently unable to reach those films' level.

     And, even more granted, there is as well a common thread to the four plots: they're all about the lies that we tell other people and each other in order to make it through the day, and about the idea of image and presentation - what people see us as instead of what we truly are. That was also at the heart of Midnight in Paris' dissertation on nostalgia. Here, however, there is a tired, tiresome aspect to plotting and scripting, making one of the film's one-liners resonate almost prophetically. "With age comes wisdom", says Jesse Eisenberg in what is probably the best of the four stories, and Alec Baldwin retorts "with age comes exhaustion".

     There is, to be sure, an exhausted aspect in To Rome, with Love, most visible in the outright lazy two "local" stories. The first recycles well-trod clichés (mousey country boy Alessandro Tiberi is forced to pass off high-flying prostitute Penélope Cruz as his wife at an important meeting that may secure a job in the capital); the second comments on modern life's 15 minutes of fame without really bringing anything new to the table (anonymous civil servant Roberto Benigni, much more subdued than his usual and all the better for it, finds himself famous overnight for no reason at all and can't quite take it).

     That leaves the two episodes starring transplanted Americans, introducing fantasy elements in the Purple Rose of Cairo/Oedipus Wrecks/Midnight in Paris mold. The best involves Mr. Baldwin reliving a student affair of his by proxy through Mr. Eisenberg, split between his girlfriend (Greta Gerwig) and a visiting friend of hers (Ellen Page); the funniest, but most inconsequential, has Mr. Allen himself as a retired opera director who finds his own private Caruso in the father of his future son-in-law, a remarkable tenor who can only sing under running water (real-life singer Fabio Armilato).

     Part of the problem with To Rome, with Love is that the four stories, unlike in the old portmanteau films, are not presented individually but intercut with no apparent rhyme or reason (since they're unconnected narratively, the pacing becomes awkward). And even though there are some lovely visual flourishes in Darius Khondji's lush lensing, with a few Steadycam and dolly shots thrown in for good measure, the whole just seems to grind along dispiritingly. Not that Mr. Allen has ever been much of a visual stylist, but since the scripting is here so uninspired the pedestrian handling is even more visible, resulting in a paper-thin, reasonably enjoyable time-passer that is unable to hold a candle to the director's better work - or even to minor highlights such as Midnight in Paris.

Cast: Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penélope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page, Antonio Albanese, Fabio Armilato, Alessandra Mastronardi, Ornella Muti, Flavio Parenti, Alison Pill, Riccardo Scamarcio, Alessandro Tiberi

Director and writer: Mr. Allen
Cinematography: Darius Khondji (colour, processing by DeLuxe)
Designer: Anne Seibel
Costumes: Sonia Grande
Editor: Alisa Lepselter
Producers: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Giampaolo Letta, Faruk Alatan (Medusa Film, Gravier Productions and Perdido Productions)
Italy/USA, 2012, 112 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Colombo 9, Lisbon, September 14th 2012


Monday, September 17, 2012

DEUS E O DIABO NA TERRA DO SOL (BLACK GOD, WHITE DEVIL)

It was this second feature of his that made Brazilian director Glauber Rocha a phenomenon in the fertile land of the "new world cinemas" of the 1960s. Fiery and voluble, torrential and poetic, revolutionary and radical, Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol is an exploration of Brazilian local narrative traditions as a framing device for a freeform look at the dialectic between oppression and freedom. Though this might seem to make it an activist picture, the end result is nothing of the sort, thanks to the sheer bravado of the filmmaking, invoking at the same time Sergei Eisenstein and the American western, and its anchoring in a well-known local reality.

     It's the tale of a long-suffering poor farmer in the Northern dry lands of Brazil, Manuel (Geraldo del Rey), who revolts against his status as almost slave labour by killing a land baron and fleeing into the sertão, choosing first to embrace radical religion then overt banditry, before realising neither holds the answer to his dreams of having his own parcel of land to live off of. Mr. Rocha's daring conflagration of stark, dramatic black-and-white expressionist visuals and post-modern freeform happening constructs a one-way trip into a blindingly bright heart of darkness that veers wildly from  entranced religious delirium into an opaque tension bubbling under the surface. The film is effectively bisected halfway through by Manuel's shifting between religion and banditry, as two halves of a same story or two sides of a same coin, since the farmer looks desperately for some sort of justice that neither path seems able to offer him.

     That bisection is part of Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol's risk-taking; it doesn't necessarily fully work in cinematic terms, since the first half's torrential action flow is abruptly broken by the second's more contemplative, passive structure. But that is by design rather than by accident, part and parcel of Mr. Rocha's daring aesthetics that predate by a few years the later Tropicália movement in its combination of high and low culture to mould an entirely idiossyncratic cultural identity for Brazil. (As an example, he uses both classical composer Heitor Villa-Lobos' symphonic work and traditional story-songs created for the film by composer Sérgio Ricardo in its soundtrack.) Seen 50 years later, it remains a passionate cinematic achievement that is like nothing else out there.

Cast: Yoná Magalhães, Othon Bastos, Maurício do Valle, Lídio Silva, Sônia dos Humildes, Geraldo del Rey

Director and writer: Glauber Rocha
Cinematography: Waldemar Lima  (b&w)
Music: Heitor Villa-Lobos, Sérgio Ricardo
Art director and costumes: Paulo Gil Soares
Editor: Rafael Valverde
Producer: Luiz Augusto Mendes (Copacabana Filmes)
Brazil, 1964, 114 minutes

Screened: Cinemateca Portuguesa, Lisbon, September 11th 2012



Sunday, September 16, 2012

JERICHOW

One of the founding members of the new German cinema's "Berlin School", director Christian Petzold has explored the many paths that lead from the old divided Germany into the modern, uneasily reunited one, looking for traces of the past in the present. Set in the former East German area of Jerichow, this 2008 film deploys Mr. Petzold's usual observational detachment - proceeding through rigid, economical, boxed-in setups that always explore the characters' awkward relationship with space and society - in the service of a tense love triangle freely inspired by James M. Cain's celebrated novel The Postman Always Rings Twice.

     Dishonorably discharged ex-soldier Thomas (Benno Fürmann), looking for work, crosses the paths of Ali (Hilmi Sözer), the Turkish owner of a kebab shop chain, and his sullen trophy wife Laura (Nina Hoss); Ali, in need of a driver and helper, hires Thomas, who finds himself in a mutual attraction to Laura. The trio is brought closer together by the unspoken secrets each of them carries and hides from the others (some of which will never be revealed in the course of this tightly wound little film), but also by the presence of the money that seems to dictate their every action: Thomas needs it to survive and refit his family house, while Ali is working for his struggling brother and to eventually retire back to Turkey, and Laura, the most vulnerable and dependent, is attached to Ali for the financial power he holds over her, realising she can't live, or love, without the money to back up her choices.

     As resolutely chilly and matter-of-fact as Mr. Petzold's other works, Jerichow is however a more involving one, thanks to the intensity of the exquisitely nuanced performances from the cast, expertly exploring through the director's steady hand the tensions that propel the plot's methodically dispassionate drama. Ultimately, what Mr. Petzold is aiming at by setting this tale of love and loss in the former East Germany remains merely suggested by its struggling, downbeat mood where happiness is always another hillside away.

Cast: Benno Fürmann, Nina Hoss, Hilmi Sözer

Director and writer: Christian Petzold
Cinematography: Hans Fromm (colour)
Music: Stefan Will
Designer: Kade Gruber
Costumes: Anette Guther
Editor: Bettina Böhler
Producers: Florian Koerner von Gustorf, Michael Weber (Schramm Film Koerner & Weber in co-production with Bayerischen Rundfunk and ARTE)
Germany, 2008, 90 minutes

Screened: DVD, Lisbon, September 10th 2012


Friday, September 14, 2012

7 DÍAS EN LA HABANA (7 DAYS IN HAVANA)

Anthology films have a way to become a rather aimless exercise where a number of filmmakers work out their short-form skills around a suggested theme or location, usually to rather disappointing returns and a general sense of "why did they bother?". While 7 Days in Havana has a somewhat stronger backbone than most - each of the seven directors handles one day of the week, based on scripts or a "bible" of ideas and connecting characters from celebrated local novelist Leonardo Padura - and an intriguing roster of global helmers, the end result is as generally disappointing and aimless as in most of these efforts.

     Part of the problem is that this Franco-Spanish co-production was partly funded by rum company Havana Club, tainting the project with a soft-sell product-placement message that is all the more unfair for being so obviously untrue. Another part is that the film gets off to a disastrous start, with the three initial episodes falling for every single tourist trap, inconsequential anecdote and overwrought cliché the idea of Havana conjures. Esteemed Argentine director Pablo Trapero's is probably the greatest disappointment - following Emir Kusturica's bleary, jet-lagged trip to pick up a career award redeemed by a casual jam session where his driver-cum-trumpeter shines, but relying ultimately in banal preconceptions and attempting to jazz up a non-existant script with some nervous handheld camera. 

     Thankfully, these are more than made up for by the two strongest and smartest sketches: Palestinian Elia Suleiman's quietly burlesque, deadpan-dry observation of the behind-the-scenes daily Cuba, and Franco-Argentine firebrand Gaspar Noé's unusually thoughtful, tranquil look at a ritual pagan celebration, both in line with their previous work as well as with the project's constraints. Cuban director Juan Carlos Tabío's and Frenchman Laurent Cantet's contributions are the most in tune with the idea of a more attentive, narrative look at daily Havana life that escapes the touristy clichés, actually showing a different look at the city - it's just that, stylistically, they're functional rather than inspired and, especially in Mr. Cantet's short, somewhat remote from his usual thoughtfulness. 

     What comes out of this free-for-all is one of those weird cadavres exquis that are promising on paper but end up leaving a sour after-taste, like a suggestive meal that turns out to be flavourless and disappointing.

El Yuma
Cast: Josh Hutcherson, Vladimir Cruz, Daisy Granados, Claríola Muñiz, Rebeca Proenza
Director: Benicio del Toro
Screenplay: Leonardo Padura
Editor: Rich Fox

Jam Session
Cast: Emir Kusturica, Alexander Abreu
Director: Pablo Trapero
Screenplay: Alejandro Fadel, Martín Máuregui, Santiago Mitre, Mr. Trapero
Editors: Santiago Esteves, Mr. Trapero

La Tentación de Cecília (Cecília's Temptation)
Cast: Daniel Brühl, Melvis Estévez, Leo Benítez
Director and editor: Julio Medem
Screenplay: Mr. Padura, Mr. Medem

Diary of a Beginner
Cast, director and writer: Elia Suleiman
Editor: Véronique Lange

Ritual
Cast: Cristela de la Caridad Herrera, Othello Rensoli
Director, writer and cinematographer: Gaspar Noé
Costumes: Omaima Salem
Editors: Mr. Noé, Thomas Fernández

Dulce Amargo (Bitter Sweet)
Cast: Mirtha Ibarra, Jorge Perugorría, Ms. Estévez
Director: Juan Carlos Tabío
Screenplay: Mr. Padura
Editor: Berta Frías

La Fuente (The Fountain)
Cast: Nathalia Amore, Mr. Rensoli, Andrés Vidal, Alexis Vidal
Director and writer: Laurent Cantet
Editor: Alexandro Rodríguez

All episodes (except where indicated)
Cinematography: Daniel Aranyó, Diego Dussuel  (colour, processing by Technicolor)
Music: Xavi Turull with Descemer Bueno and Kelvis Ochoa
Art direction and costumes: Juan Pedro de Gaspar

Producers: Álvaro Longoria, Gaël Nouaille, Laurent Baudens, Didar Domehri, Fabien Pisani (Full House and Morena Films, with the collaboration of Havana Club International, in association with Backup Films, Sofica Coficup, Palatine Étoile 8 & 9, Chaocorp Distribution and M&C Saatchi.GAD)
Spain/France, 2012, 129 minutes

Screened: distributor advance screener DVD, Lisbon, September 8th 2012


Thursday, September 13, 2012

PARANORMAN

If there's anything that could be construed as an "entry-level" horror movie aimed at older kids, then Paranorman is it. It's a clever take on teenage disaffection and a sly metaphor of bullying transplanted into the scaffolding of a classic exploitation horror movie, as high-school misfit Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) finds the exact gift that makes him a shunned figure of fun is the trump card that may save his sleepy hometown of Blithe Hollow from falling prey to a centenary witch's curse: his ability to see and talk to dead people. In Chris Butler's layered script, though, there's definitely a lot more than meets the eye going on, as nothing is ever quite what it seems behind the savvily-used horror film stock characters (dumb jock, bimbo blonde, party guy, outcast geek).

     One look at the endearingly skewed, jagged edges of the stop-motion universe engagingly hand-crafted by Laika Studios' crew makes you aware there is nothing rushed or half-measured in this film. Even though there's a strong whiff of Tim Burton-Henry Selick The Nightmare Before Christmas pop-gothic trademarks here (and remember Mr. Selick directed Laika's previous stop-motion entry Coraline), there's also a more biting satirical eye, with many jabs at American culture and a sense of forlorn melancholy that give the film quite an unusual tone and can be attributed to co-directors Sam Fell and Mr. Butler's British sensibilities.

     It's very refreshing as well to see a film that does not mollycoddle its younger viewers but instead treats them like individuals; Paranorman does not dial down its scariness at all for the sake of mere ratings, and knows that it's much healthier to speak at kids rather than down at them (it might therefore not be such a good idea to take younger kids to see this). As for the grown-ups, if they're genre fans then they're in for a lovely treat: a film that plays affectionately with all the trademarks but also knows how and when to skewer them without ever condescending either to kids or adults. Paranorman is its smart own man, just like its hero.

Voice cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Bernard Hill, Jodelle Ferland, John Goodman

Directors: Sam Fell, Chris Butler
Screenplay: Mr. Butler
Cinematography: Tristan Oliver (colour, digital intermediate by Technicolor, prints by Deluxe, widescreen)
Music: Jon Brion
Designer: Nelson Lowry
Costumes: Deborah Cook
Editor: Christopher Murrie
Visual effects: Brian van't Hul
Animation supervisor: Brad Schiff
Character design: Heidi Smith
Producers: Arianne Sutner, Travis Knight  (Laika Inc.)
USA, 2012, 93 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Colombo 1 (Lisbon), September 7th 2012


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

SERBUAN MAUT (THE RAID: REDEMPTION)

The second feature of British expat director Gareth Huw Evans has been received as a sucker punch to the modern action movie, thanks to its gut-wrenching ultra-graphic violence and its almost complete absence of plot. And, strictly speaking, those responses are utterly correct. The film works within the strict framework of the low-budget action thriller, mixing elements from classic B-movie plots, last-stand westerns, police procedurals and martial arts films with shades of the golden age of Hong Kong action cinema (from Johnnie To's balletic mechanisms to the Infernal Affairs trilogy's reversals of good and evil). Mr. Evans' tour-de-force (screened in the 2012 international version, with a propulsive new score by Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda and Joseph Trapanese) spins a basic cops vs. robbers tale into a no holds-barred orgy of kinetic action set-pieces tangentially connected to the survival horror movie.

     This is because the film's key is survival: a Jakarta SWAT team launches a raid on the apartment building where a crime lord has his HQ, only to find themselves trapped inside and mercilessly chased by the thugs and henchmen, having to devise ways to stay alive and escape the death trap. Yes, it is clear that the narrative logic of the video game is present in the film - in many ways, its plot is a basic series of missions to fulfill in order to unblock the next level - but it's equally clear that this is not a Hollywood shoot-'em-up. There are little to none CGI enhancements, with impressive, old-fashioned stunt work and practical effects showing off the often chilling, unpleasant, bone-crushing, blood-spurting violence; the matter-of-fact presentation and focus on action to the detriment of plot also helps ground the film's ultra-violent fight scenes in a gritty, take-no-prisoners and give-no-quarter reality.

     Therein, however, lies The Raid: Redemption's central problem: the sheer relentlessness of the violence quickly numbs the viewer and becomes nightmarish, especially when it's pinned on such a basic plot structure, even as it holds a mirror to its audience, saying "you have come for exhilaratingly presented violence, and you will get more than you bargained for". That Mr. Evans seems to just go with the action flow rather than elaborate on that mirror aspect should not be held against him (even if it reduces The Raid: Redemption to the status of a strict adrenaline rush): there is no denying the director's sweeping dexterity in setting the film's pace and rhythm with so much assurance and bravado.

Cast: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Doni Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Ray Sahetapy, Tegar Satrya, Iang Darmawan, Eka "Piranha" Rahmadia, Verdi Solaiman

Director, writer and editor: Gareth Huw Evans
Cinematography: Matt Flannery, Dimas Imam Subhonia (colour)
Art director: Moti D. Setyanto
Wardrobe: Upay Maryani
Fight choreography: Mr. Uwais, Mr. Rahian and Mr. Evans
Music: Mike Shinoda, Joseph Trapanese
Producer: Ario Sagantoro (Merantau Films in association with Celluloid Nightmares and XYZ Films)
Indonesia/France/USA, 2011, 101 minutes

Screened: DVD, Lisbon, September 10th 2012


Monday, September 10, 2012

TERRA EM TRANSE (ENTRANCED EARTH)

The title of late Brazilian director Glauber Rocha's third film is pretty much self-explanatory, representative of its significance, position and context in late-1960s Brazilian culture and society: a trance-like trip into the heart of a conflicted country. A heady, surreal chamber-piece deathbed fantasy about the eternal conflict between idealism and pragmatism, shaped as a thinly-veiled allegory of Brazil's political tumults, Terra em Transe is a rushing torrent of images and thoughts aimed squarely at its time and place, but whose lucid thoughts about politics and society remain valid and contemporary.

     Told in fragmented, roughly linear sequence using often handheld cameras in a reportage style, it chases enthusiastically freedom and truth in equally absolute terms, doing so by embodying them in its very freedom of form - like a savage, tropical Godard let loose with a fever on a jungle of dissonance and poetry. Nominally, this tells the tale of how, in a fictitious Latin-American country, left-wing poet Paulo Martins (Jardel Filho) sees his political ambitions and ideals systematically destroyed at the hands of backstage compromises and powerful industrial lobbying, eroded by the confrontation with real life. And the tale is shot by Mr. Rocha as if the gloriously heroic romanticism of the idealism ends up an equally gloriously heroic and gloriously disappointing romanticism, enveloping the viewer in a cacophony of sound, image and thought that batters him into submission while never alienating him (easy as it might be).

     Terra em Transe is not a perfect film by any means, but its flaws are part and parcel of its strength, its artistic and historical importance as a landmark for both the Brazilian "Cinema Novo" movement of the 1960s and the many global "new waves" of that decade.

Cast: Jardel Filho, Paulo Autran, José Lewgoy, Glaube Rocha, Paulo Gracindo, Hugo Carvana, Danuza Leão

Director and writer: Glauber Rocha
Cinematography: Luiz Carlos Barreto (b&w)
Music: Sérgio Ricardo
Designer and costumes: Paulo Gil Soares
Editor: Eduardo Escorel
Producer: Zelito Viana (Mapa Filmes, Difilm)
Brazil, 1967, 107 minutes

Screened: Cinemateca Portuguesa (Lisbon), September 7th 2012


Saturday, September 08, 2012

RUBY SPARKS

Actress and screenwriter Zoe Kazan, in a recent interview, was displeased when Ruby Sparks was presented as a prime example of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl would-be indie film, because the title character, as she wrote and performed it in Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' sophomore film, was more grounded and realistic than that facile, borderline misogynistic definition. True that.

     But Ms. Kazan has nobody else to blame but herself, for having written a character that is, literally, the embodiment of that internet-spread cliché. Ruby Sparks is a Dream Girl: a figment of a writer's imagination that magically came to life. Come to former whiz-kid and now severely blocked writer Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) in a dream, Ruby inspired him to write away a new novel that turns out to give her an actual existence and even define what her actions might be. And no, though she is literally a Dream Girl, Ruby is not so much a Manic Pixie Dream Girl as she is a comment on the ideal dream girl, and the way how even dream girls tend to escape the perfection of fantasy into the messiness of reality, as seen through the budding romance between writer and creation that turns sour when Calvin realises he cannot control life as if it were a novel.

     It's a smart premise, though hardly an original one; but there's the sense that the concept's jagged edges have been pretty much sandblasted away to make it a comfortable, eccentric romantic fantasy with enough of a feel-good factor to be non-threatening. This is disappointing because, in Ms. Faris and Mr. Dayton's acclaimed debut, Little Miss Sunshine, they were able to keep those jagged edges on and still deliver a more heartfelt, more profound film, whereas here they are dealing with a high-concept idea that proves halting and stilted on the screen. Through no fault of the assembled cast, it must be said - though the by now classic indie trope of big-name actors roped in for supporting roles is getting long, and is here more distracting than necessary. Whether Ruby Sparks is a near-miss because of the script's conceit or the way Ms. Faris and Mr. Dayton have misjudged it - nowhere more visible than in the brutally honest scene where Calvin reveals the truth to Ruby, so tonally different it seems to have come in from a wholly different film - is a moot point: it's still a near-miss.

Cast: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, Steve Coogan, Elliott Gould, Chris Messina, Alia Shawkat

Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Screenplay: Ms. Kazan
Cinematography: Matthew Libatique (colour, processing by Efilm, prints by Deluxe)
Music: Nick Urata
Designer: Judy Becker
Costumes: Nancy Steiner
Editor: Pamela Martin
Producers: Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa (Fox Searchlight Pictures and Bona Fide Productions in association with Dune Entertainment)
USA, 2012, 104 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, UCI El Corte Inglés 14, August 31st 2012


Friday, September 07, 2012

SAVAGES

At first sight an Elmore Leonard kaleidoscope of clockwork Californian crime melodrama set in the drug underworld, Savages is clearly a return to form for director Oliver Stone, whose recent, more subdued work was clearly disappointing in view of the kinetic, dynamic filmmaking of his better, earlier films. It's not, mind you, a grand return to form: up to an extent, it's the exact sort of star thriller that recent Hollywood can still get away with, with meaty character roles for underused actors and based on a best-selling novel (by Don Winslow) that deals with the current issue of the "war against drugs". But Mr. Stone's handling injects both cynicism and edginess into it: starting out with a beheading and moving back and forth in time from there, the director discusses the double-edged sword and the double standards of the slippery slope between crime and justice, good and evil, in a landscape where black and white are no longer possible and survival requires accommodation with the other side.

     Nominal heroes Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch), producers of the best marijuana in California, live in paradise on Earth with their shared girlfriend O (Blake Lively), but find themselves in the sights of Mexican drug queen Elena Sanchez (Salma Hayek) and her cruel henchman Lado (Benicio del Toro), setting the stage for a bloody conflagration of violence that hinges upon, of all things, love and the desire of a better life. Nobody is innocent in this tale, everybody gives in at some point, and while Mr. Stone takes the opportunity to lay down the contrast between idealism (Ben's desire to use the profits of the drug operation to help the needy) and pragmatism (Chon's hardened awareness of people's inability to change the world), he is not always in control of his narrative or of his cast.

     There's never a sense of style over substance, but too many secondary characters and plots are left tantalisingly underdeveloped, and the initially bewildering choice of a grand finale plays right into Mr. Stone's preference for bungled-up reality over Hollywood fantasy (even while Savages' kinetic visuals play it up a lot throughout). There's a sense that the director tried to throw everything but the kitchen sink into it and not everything stuck; and while Mr. Kitsch is spot-on as ex-special forces man Chon and Ms. Hayek is appropriately voluble as the drug queen, Mr. Johnson never really finds his character, and Mr. del Toro and John Travolta (as a wily dirty DEA agent) play it far too broadly. The result is a film that thankfully proves there's still a flame burning inside Mr. Stone after a fair bunch of below-par films (none more so than the dismal Wall Street sequel Money Never Sleeps), but that the halcyon days of Natural Born Killers or Talk Radio aren't necessarily coming back.

Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, John Travolta, Benicio del Toro, Salma Hayek, Emile Hirsch, Demián Bichir

Director: Oliver Stone
Screenplay: Shane Salerno, Don Winslow, Mr. Stone, from the novel by Mr. Winslow, Savages
Cinematography: Dan Mindel  (colour, processing by Deluxe, Panavision widescreen)
Music: Adam Peters
Designer: Tomás Voth
Costumes: Cindy Evans
Editors: Joe Hutshing, William Levy, Alex Márquez
Producers: Moritz Borman, Eric Kopeloff (Universal Pictures in association with Relativity Media and Dentsu)
USA/Japan, 2012, 131 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Colombo 9, August 30th 2012


Thursday, September 06, 2012

HOPE SPRINGS

There really could be a smart and interesting film somewhere in Hope Springs, the tale of an Omaha couple of 30 years whose wedding is stuck in neutral, with the wife taking matters in her hands and booking a week of intensive marriage therapy in Maine. Especially because the couple in question is perfectly cast: Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. Alas, David Frankel's morose dramedy neither fulfills the promise of its premise, not gives its stellar cast much to work with. Ms. Streep is precise as ever as Kay Soames, the somewhat constrained housewife who wants to be seen as flesh and blood and not just an heirloom housekeeper; Mr. Jones puts his gruffness to good use as Arnold, the old-fashioned, stuffy CPA husband who thinks some things are not meant to be dealt with.

     But Kay and Arnold - or to that matter Steve Carell's nicely subdued, straight-man therapist, or the brief, local-colour cameos handed out like consolation prizes to fine actors such as Mimi Rogers or Elisabeth Shue - have little to no personal existence beyond the film's timespan; they're merely routine stock characters in material that regularly throws away potentially inspired gags and that not even the assembled talents can raise, drearily and lazily handled by Mr. Frankel (much more adroit in his previous collaboration with Ms. Streep in The Devil Wears Prada). Disparagingly below par, Hope Springs completely wastes its opportunity to make a serious statement about love after 50, thrown away in a slight, underwritten script composed in cliches rather than in character, suggesting that a healthy dose of sex is all it takes to salvage a wedding.

Cast: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell

Director: David Frankel
Screenplay: Vanessa Taylor
Cinematography: Florian Ballhaus  (colour, processing by Deluxe, widescreen)
Music: Theodore Shapiro
Designer: Stuart Wurtzel
Costumes: Ann Roth
Editor: Steven Weisberg
Producers: Todd Black, Guymon Casady (Film 360 and Escape Artists for Columbia Pictures, Mandate Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures)
USA, 2012, 99 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Colombo 1, Lisbon, August 28th 2012


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

LA TERZA MADRE (MOTHER OF TEARS)

Finally, a quarter century after the failure of Inferno, Italian genre stylist Dario Argento wraps up his "Three Mothers" trilogy. The grand finale, set in Rome, sees archaeological restorer Asia Argento become the only person able to stand up to the reborn Mother of Tears (Moran Atias), as all around her the city falls prey to an epidemic of suicides and murder set loose by the digging up of a mysterious urn. Many Argento regulars (such as his late-seventies muse and partner, Daria Nicolodi, returning actors such as Coralina Cataldi-Tessoni and Udo Kier, and composer Claudio Simonetti, formerly of Goblin) make appearances, and the script, full of throwbacks to the two previous films, Suspiria and Inferno, makes a point of bringing together and neatly wrapping up all the loose ends in the trilogy.

     In many ways, Mother of Tears is a summing-up of Mr. Argento's evolution as a genre filmmaker, in the melding of murder mystery, suspense and horror elements and the few extraordinary set-pieces, as well as in the generally sturdier, stronger structure of the plot (even if it pretty much collapses in the final act). It is, however, a less visually inspired and more non-descript film, more formatted and less flamboyant than the previous episodes (though, in all fairness, Suspiria was pretty much unbeatable). What it has going for it, though, is the extraordinary sense of unease that Mr. Argento instils in the telling, with Rome turned into an often disquieting and mostly suggested Boschian apocalypse; that alone, along with the nicely paced narrative progression, survives the rather preposterously hurried ending. Mr. Argento may be treading water here, but at least Mother of Tears is more true to form than some of his recent work.

Cast: Asia Argento, Cristian Solimeno, Adam James, Moran Atias, Valeria Cavalli, Philippe Leroy, Daria Nicolodi, Coralina Cataldi-Tessoni, Udo Kier

Director: Dario Argento
Screenplay: Mr. Argento, Jace Anderson, Adam Gierasch, Walter Fasano, Simona Simonetti, from a story by Mr. Argento
Cinematography (colour, processing by Cinecittà, widescreen): Frederic Fasano
Music: Claudio Simonetti
Designers: Francesca Bocca, Valentina Ferroni
Costumes: Ludovica Amati
Editor: Walter Fasano
Visual effects: Lee Wilson
Make-up effects: Sergio Stivaletti
Producers: Dario Argento, Claudio Argento  (Opera Film Produzione for Medusa Film in collaboration with Sky Italia)
Italy, 2007, 97 minutes

Screened: DVD, Lisbon, September 1st 2012


Monday, September 03, 2012

INFERNO

The second in the "Three Mothers" trilogy, Dario Argento's ill-advised follow-up to Suspiria struggled with illness and production troubles before being unceremoniously dumped by the studio that had agreed to finance it. Fox agreed to back Inferno on the strength of Suspiria's US success, but ended up shelving the finished product - while officially due to the standard production regime changes, Inferno must have come across as a problem child, lacking its predecessor's arresting, stylish visuals, replaced by a more subdued and less garish handling, short of the director's trademark flourishes.

     Mr. Argento skipped some shooting time over illness (Mario Bava is said to have taken over while he was away), but that alone does not explain why it's a less gory, more self-aware film; it feels as if Inferno is more aware of its pedigree, more controlled, while the director's usual glossy, lengthy set pieces have here less of a payoff, seemingly more concerned with creating a general Rosemary's Baby mood of New York witchcraft than creating a structured plot. The threadbare plot, such as it is, repeats Suspiria's device of a malevolent mansion custom-designed for one of the "three Mothers" of sorrows and darkness, and the investigation into the strange events taking place there, here by the brother of one of the residents. It's even less concerned with narrative plausibility than its predecessor, the dominant colour scheme switching from red to blue and anticipating the cool neons of the 1980's cinéma du look; but there is a strange sense of rote, by-the-numbers repetition, of disaggregated episodes in search of a connecting thread, unhelped by Keith Emerson's bombastic, pompous score, and even Mr. Argento's control of rhythm and tempo falls occasionally flat.

    The director would redeem Inferno's history of troubles with the far more accomplished trilogy-concluding Mother of Tears a quarter century later, but neither would reach the surreal heights of Suspiria, and there's a sense that Inferno marks a point of no return for Mr. Argento's career.

Cast: Eleonora Giorgi, Gabriele Lavia, Veronica Lazar, Leopoldo Mastelloni, Irene Miracle, Daria Nicolodi, Sacha Pitoeff, Alida Valli, Leigh McCloskey

Director and writer: Dario Argento
Cinematography: Romano Albani  (colour by Technicolor)
Music: Keith Emerson
Art director: Giuseppe Bassan
Costumes: Massimo Lentini
Editor: Franco Fraticelli
Special effects: Germano Natali
Producer: Claudio Argento (Produzioni Intersound for Twentieth Century-Fox)
Italy/USA, 1980, 106 minutes

Screened: DVD, Lisbon, August 30th 2012


Sunday, September 02, 2012

SUSPIRIA

Probably the film that still defines today Italian director Dario Argento's reputation as a master of the Italian slashers known as giallo, Suspiria is a no-holds-barred, grand-guignol over-the-top trip on a psychedelic ghost train, a sublimely overblown statement of hyper-stylized form over almost non-existant function. Suspiria is the moment where Mr. Argento's stunning formalism tips the rushed script-writing of Italian poverty-row assembly-line production into a gloriously absurd celebration of transcendence through style.

     Bathed in over-saturated deep reds from the very beginning, the first film in the "Three Mothers" trilogy loosely inspired by Thomas de Quincey's writings turns a standard horror thriller tale into a deliriously visual objet d'art: an American ballet student (Jessica Harper) accepted in a prestigious German academy finds herself surrounded by macabre events a schoolmate attributes to diabolical witchcraft. The plot, devised by the director with his then-girlfriend, actress Daria Nicolodi, is however but a mere pretext for Mr. Argento to bring out his sweeping visual artillery of gliding pans, anamorphic distortions, saturated colour schemes, deafening psychedelic music and insanely prolonged, gory set-pieces almost dialogue-free. It leads into a garish, twisted fairy-tale where Red Riding Hood finds herself locked inside Hansel & Gretel's confectionery house with the Big Bad Wolf on the loose, washed out in freak waves of primary, almost fluorescent colours immaculately drawn by Luciano Tovoli's mobile camera. Raising schlock to high art, Suspiria is the peak achievement of an artist who never gave up on his status as a resolutely populist entertainer and has never bettered his formalism as he did here.

Cast: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bosè, Barbara Magnolfi, Susanna Javicoli, Eva Axen, Alida Valli, Joan Bennett

Director: Dario Argento
Screenplay: Mr. Argento, Daria Nicolodi
Cinematography: Luciano Tovoli  (colour by Technicolor, Technovision widescreen)
Music: Goblin with Mr. Argento
Designer: Giuseppe Bassan
Costumes: Pierangelo Cicoletti
Editor: Franco Fraticelli
Special effects: Germano Natali
Producer: Claudio Argento (Seda Spettacoli)
Italy, 1977, 98 minutes

Screened: DVD, Lisbon, August 29th 2012

Saturday, September 01, 2012

TOTAL RECALL

As utterly pointless as the idea of a remake of Paul Verhoeven's 1990 campy classic may be, Len Wiseman's take on the sci-fi spy thriller inspired by Philip K. Dick's short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale is as much of a thrill ride as the original, only a lot more cohesive and structured in a knowingly disposable B-movie sort of the way.

     As scripted by genre veteran Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback, this "re-imagining" places the action squarely on Earth, moving it to a post-apocalyptic 22nd century after the planet was devastated by chemical warfare and only two states remain: the ruling United Federation of Britain and the Colony in old Australia, connected through a transport chute through the core of the Earth known as The Fall. The Fall is the key conceit of the film and the one that renders its mutinous cross-and-double-cross valid for the Occupy Wall Street generation: the Colony and the Federation stand for the 99% and the 1%, respectively, and it's against a backdrop of social protests and governmental repression that unfolds the tale of Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell), a factory worker who finds he is not who he thinks he is but really a brainwashed double agent.

     Other than the change of background, the plot is reasonably faithful to Mr. Verhoeven's film, even down to its signs of the times: where the 1990 Total Recall was 1980/1990 trashy, excessive, muscular filmmaking embodied, Mr. Wiseman's update is all sleek, derivative, workmanlike efficiency, heightened by the canny choice of Mr. Farrell in the lead. His Quaid is a more innately decent, human character in a way that Arnold Schwarzenegger's self-deprecating, winking performance never could achieve. Mr. Wiseman is fully aware of Total Recall's essential inbuilt obsolescence, to the point of building a wholly believable future world out of salvaged bits and pieces from earlier films - Blade Runner's rain-soaked derelict metropolis, Minority Report's tony futuristic technologies. It's an entirely believable background for a highly effective slam-bang actioner that fulfills its obligations without ever surrendering to crassness or rote by-the-numbers filmmaking: for a tale about someone whose memory is a jumble, the fact that Total Recall is an open remake with so many derivative concepts at work makes it intriguingly self-aware.

Cast: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bokeem Woodbine, John Cho, Bill Nighy

Director: Len Wiseman
Screenplay: Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback, from a story by Mr. Wimmer, the screenplay by Ronald Shusett, Dan O'Bannon and Gary Goldman for Paul Verhoeven's film Total Recall based on a story by Mr. Shusett, Mr. O'Bannon and Jon Povill, and the short story by Philip K. Dick We Can Remember It for You Wholesale
Cinematography: Paul Cameron  (colour, widescreen)
Music: Harry Gregson-Williams
Designer: Patrick Tatopoulos
Costumes: Sanja Milkovic Hays
Editor: Christian Wagner
Visual effects: Peter Chiang
Producers: Neal H. Moritz, Toby Jaffe (Columbia Pictures, Original Film)
USA, 2012, 118 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Columbia Tristar Warner screening room, Lisbon, August 23rd 2012