Friday, March 09, 2007

Hustle & Flow (2005)

***½
USA

First-time writer-director Craig Brewer takes a stale formula - 'the no-good hood who done good' - gives it grit and gives it air. He has Terrence Howard playing a pimp who's got a dream (cuz everybody gotta have a dream!) to be a hip hop star, and he pitches him against a Memphis-ghetto backdrop that may or may not be authentic but for the purposes of the story is entirely convincing. He doesn't skip many of the clichés but he zooms through them with such energy that the movie leaves you feeling satisfied for quite some time before the nasty notion kicks in that you've just participated in the glorification of a pimp as a misunderstood genius.

wr/dir: Craig Brewer
cast: Terrence Howard, Taryn Manning, Taraji P. Henson, Anthony Anderson, D.J. Qualls, Ludacris, Paula Jai Parker, Elise Neal, Isaac Hayes

Thursday, March 08, 2007

La Notte (1961)

***
Italy/France

Michelangelo Antonioni was often able to come up with absorbing ideas and even to articulate them quite vividly, as he did in L'Avventura (1960). So in some way it's doubly frustrating when he veers into hollowness as he does in this, the second picture in his celebrated trilogy of bourgeois disenchantment. At the very least his visual style doesn't suffer - it's as sophisticated and finely tuned as his observations on the juiceless marriage of Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau (each exquisitely coiffed and playing in auto-pilot) are not. After two hours of sharing in their photogenic ennui, you become as bored and disheartened as they have. But you can't muster up any sympathy for characters who bury their heads up their own asses and then turn around to agonise over not having come across a human connection.

dir: Michelangelo Antonioni
ph: Gianni Di Venanzo
cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau, Monica Vitti, Bernhard Wicki, Rosy Mazzacurati, Maria Pia Luzi

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

****
Mexico/Spain/USA

With her father dead and her pregnant mother married to a sadistic captain, young Ofelia is forced to grow up surrounded by the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War. It is her singular fortune however to be the reincarnation of an immortal princess of a subterranean land and to be able to congregate with some beguiling creatures from Guillermo del Toro's warped-Gothic imagination. Through various deaths, killings, mutilations and armed conflicts, every hope for a decent childhood for Ofelia is obliterated. And it becomes increasingly wrenching to watch her slip into fantasy as a means of dealing with unimaginable pain.

wr/dir: Guillermo del Toro
ph: Guillermo Navarro
cast: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Ariadna Gil, Doug Jones, Álex Angulo, Manolo Solo, César Vea, Roger Casamajor