Archive for September, 2008

Mongol: The Rise to Power of Genghis Khan – out now

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Encompassing shifting tribal allegiances, a good friend turned sworn enemy and a loving relationship that lasts a life-time, Mongol presents an epic account of the dramatic and harrowing formative years of the young tribal warrior Temudgin, who will eventually become the mighty ruler Genghis Khan.

Based on leading scholarly accounts and shot on the steppes of China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan, Sergei Bodrov’s historical biopic gives a full-blooded account of life in this harsh and unforgiving region that sticks closely to the established facts.

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Gone Baby Gone – out now

Friday, September 26th, 2008

The family feuds, criminal gangs and hard-eyed women who roam the streets of the gritty South Boston neighbourhood of Dorchester form the setting for Ben Affleck’s directorial debut crime drama.

Like Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone is based on a novel by author Dennis Lehane. Steeped in local colour, the film is a tale of abuse, loss and corruption. The film’s distributors actually pulled it from the Times BFI London Film Festival line-up and put back its UK release date because of the plot’s coincidental similarities to the Madeleine McCann case.

When four-year-old Amanda McCready goes missing, her junkie mother Helene (Amy Ryan) despairs. Unwilling to trust the cops, Amanda’s devoted uncle and aunt (Titus Welliver and Amy Madigan) call in a private detective (Casey Affleck – Ben’s brother) and his girlfriend (Michelle Monaghan) to search for the missing girl. The pair, working alongside the cynical, squinty detective on the case (Ed Harris) and the heartbroken police captain (Morgan Freeman) go down a long, winding road that leads them to the shadowy underworld of drug peddlers, ex-convicts and murderous paedophiles.

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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed – out now

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Ever since Nintendo unveiled their wireless white wonder to the world (the Wii), practically everybody who saw the infra-red WiiMote control in action at some point thought the same thing: ‘Wouldn’t it be totally sweet if someone made a Star Wars game which allowed you to use the controller as a lightsabre?’

Well, turns out that someone did. The Star Wars ‘Expanded Universe’ – that is, stories set before, beyond and in between the narratives of the six films – is huge. There are hundreds of ancillary novels, comic books and video games set in the Star Wars universe, some of them great (see the Battlefront and the Knights of the Old Republic series’) some of them not so great (Empire at War). The Force Unleashed looks set to neatly slot into the former category.

The action takes place between Episodes III and IV, (so it’s technically Episode 3.241407 or something like that) and see players assuming the mantle of one Galen Marek, the secret apprentice of Darth Vader who is charged with hunting down the remaining Jedi after the Emperor orders their extermination.

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Forgetting Sarah Marshall – out now

Friday, September 19th, 2008

After the successful fusion of uninhibited bawdiness and showbiz satire in The 40 Year Old Virgin and pregnancy-centric rom-com Knocked Up, current chieftain of Hollywood comedy Judd Apatow looks to have scored another hit with Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Once again he takes a situation that really shouldn’t be funny – in this case the break-down of a long-term relationship – and sucks from it every last drop of laughs.

When Peter Bretter (Jason Segel), a genial underachiever who composes incidental music for American TV shows, is dumped by his beautiful actress girlfriend, Sarah Marhall (Kristen Bell), he is devastated. Standing stark naked in his kitchen and weeping buckets, he begs her to stay, but to no avail – her success has outstripped his and she has bigger fish to fry. He seeks solace in one-night stands but is haunted by Sarah’s memory. Tired of womanising, he takes advice from his step-brother Brian (Bill Hader) and escapes to Hawaii, only to discover that Sarah and her rock star boyfriend Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) are staying in the same hotel. The set up is textbook farce. Fortunately, help is at hand in the form of Rachel (Mila Kunis), the pretty hotel receptionist with whom Peter strikes up a relationship.

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Caramel – out now

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

Named after the sticky mixture of lemon, sugar and water that is used as an alternative to leg wax, Caramel is an ensemble comedy set in and around a Beirut beauty salon where the women struggle to make the best of a society which so often limits their options.

Director Nadine Labaki plays thirty-something salon owner Layale. The daughter of Christian parents, Layale is in the throes of an ill-advised affair with a married man.

Her Muslim co-worker Nasrine (Yasmine Al Masri) is about to be married to the man of her dreams, but goes to desperate measures to hide the fact she is not a virgin from her conservative in-laws. Rose (Sihame Haddad), the seamstress from upstairs, would llove to be in a relationship, but must spend all her spare time caring for her senile older sister.

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Love in the Time of Cholera – out now

Friday, September 5th, 2008

Love in the Time of Cholera is based on the sumptuous, florid novel by Nobel Prize winning Columbian author Gabriel García Márquez. The film adaptation by Mike Newell, who is best known for Four Weddings and a Funeral and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, just goes to show that the best novels rarely work well on the big screen.

The setting is the small Columbian town of Cartanega around the year 1900. The young clerk Florentino (played by Unax Ugalde as a teenager and Javier Bardem as an adult) catches a glimpse of wealthy beauty Fermina Daza (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) through an open window as he is going about on an errand. A poet of sorts, Florentino eventually wins Fermina’s heart by writing letters to her and the two embark on a breathless courtship (complete with Romeo and Juliet balcony scene).

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