Friday, April 27, 2007

Happy Feet (2006)

***½
Australia/USA

A strange, oddly paced cartoon about a toe-tapping penguin's identity crisis in an all-singing penguin society. It starts off on a shaky note: the awkward, tuneless celebrity voices don't gel with the characters and, while an awful lot appears to be happening very quickly, none of it runs very smoothly or makes very much sense. It's only about an hour into the picture that the story kicks into high gear and morphs into an exciting, entrancing adventure, with grand, awe-inspiring visuals along with some left-field but uncannily effective messages about things like religious fundamentalism and keeping the planet happy.

dir: George Miller, Warren Coleman, Judy Morris
voices of: Elijah Wood, Brittany Murphy, Robin Williams, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Hugo Weaving, Anthony LaPaglia, Miriam Margolyes, Magda Szubanski, Elizabeth Daily, Steve Irwin

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Paris, je t'aime (2006)

***½
France/Germany/Switzerland/Liechtenstein

The short film format is a deceptively challenging one and it's a humbling experience to watch several of the world's best contemporary filmmakers tackle it and, quite often, fail.
The most irritating chapters in this omnibus of roughly-five-minute odes to the city of love are Christopher Doyle's film-school-undergrad effort at avant-gardism set in a Chinese quarter, Sylvain Chomet's cutesy-quirky romance between two mimes and (the absolute nadir!) Wes Craven's vulgar patchwork of crude exposition and awkward sarcasm exchanged between a British couple visiting Oscar Wilde's grave.
Among the agreeable-if-facile contributions, you can count Gurinder Chadha's pro-hijab dialectic, Tom Tykwer's frenetic love story about Natalie Portman and a blind boy and Gus Van Sant's gimmicky account of a sleeveless Gaspard Ulliel chatting up a shy gallery assistant.
Among the more effective snippets are the Coen Brothers' sardonic pitting of Steve Buscemi's nebbish against raging Parisian hormones, the Gena Rowlands-penned, Gérard Depardieu and Frédéric Auburtin-directed meeting between two septuagenarian divorcés and Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas' simple, startlingly clever evocation of an immigrant worker's experience.
And finally, the collection's true gem comes at the end: Alexander Payne's witty, generous essay of a dowdy Denver-mailwoman's six-day holiday trip.
dir: Olivier Assayas, Frédéric Auburtin, Emmanuel Benbihy, Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, Gérard Depardieu, Christopher Doyle, Richard LaGravanese, Vincenzo Natali, Alexander Payne, Bruno Podalydès, Walter Salles, Oliver Schmitz, Nobuhiro Suwa, Daniela Thomas, Tom Tykwer, Gus Van Sant
cast: Bruno Podalydès, Florence Müller, Leila Bekhti, Cyril Descours, Marianne Faithfull, Gaspard Ulliel, Elias McConnell, Steve Buscemi, Julie Bataille, Axel Kiener, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Barbet Schroeder, Li Xin, Sergio Castelito, Miranda Richardson, Leonor Watling, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Hippolyte Girardot, Paul Putner, Yolande Moreau, Nick Nolte, Ludivine Sagnier, Bob Hoskins, Fanny Ardant, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lionel Dray, Aissa Maiga, Seydou Boro, Elijah Wood, Olga Kurylenko, Natalie Portman, Melchior Beslon, Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara, Margot Martindale

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Pride and Prejudice (1940)

****½
USA

If it wasn't practically forgotten, this would be the definitive Austen adaptation. At her most charming and ineffably graceful, Greer Garson is Elizabeth Bennett, while at his most dashing and relaxed, Laurence Olivier takes on Mr. Darcy. They're both, of course, visibly closer to middle age than their characters' true age, but their chemistry compensates.
A man called Robert Z. Leonard was hired to direct and he keeps things animated and zipping at a steady pace. Wisely enough, the script - co-written by Aldous Huxley, no less - is more faithful to Austen's spirit than to her plot, and the picture wraps in less than two hours, well below mini-series length.

dir: Robert Z. Leonard
wr: Aldous Huxley, Jane Murfin
cast: Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier, Mary Boland, Edmund Gwenn, Edna May Oliver, Maureen O'Sullivan, Ann Rutherford, Frieda Inescort, Karen Morley, Heather Angel, Marsha Hunt, Bruce Lester, Ewdard Ashley, Melville Cooper, E.E. Clive

The Best of Youth (2003)

****
Italy

Marco Tullio Giordana's much-acclaimed six-hour saga, concentrating chiefly on the choices made by two brothers very opposite in nature, against the backdrop of some forty years worth of political turmoil in Italy. The story abandons characters at will only to pick them up whenever convenient and it isn't entirely above soap opera. But for six hours you live and breathe the world of the Carati family and you gasp and soar according to the vicissitudes of an entire nation's fortunes. Giordana's style is professional more than masterful and polished more than organic. But it's perfectly effective at reining in the talky, bounteous monster of a script and never losing hold over the overarching objectives.

dir: Marco Tullio Giordana
wr: Sandro Petraglia, Stefano Rulli
cast: Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessio Boni, Adriana Asti, Sonia Bergamasco, Fabrizio Gifuni, Maya Sansa, Valentina Carnelutti, Jasmine Trinca, Andrea Tidona, Lidia Vitale, Camilla Filippi, Paolo Bonnani, Riccardo Scamarcio, Giovanni Scifoni

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hour of Prayer (2006)

And here's one I made myself!

A local youth film festival rejected it but they were kind enough to upload it to a random web-site without letting me know - This is exciting - Tell me what you think, why not