Archive for February, 2009

Knocked Up

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

knocked-upFollowing the success of The 40 Year Old Virgin, a touching comedy which made funny sense of that eponymous condition and its protagonist’s recovery from it, America’s King of Comedy Judd Apatow brings us Knocked Up, a similarly touching comedy about a more familiar situation – the inconvenient consequences of a one-night stand. Though the cast is mainly made up of Apatow’s family and friends, he is never tempted to laziness or in jokes. Rather a sharp script and stellar cast offer sweet and mature observations on the trails and joys of childbirth and awakening romance.

Alison (Heigl), a pretty and ambitious career woman has just landed a job as an on-air reporter for the E! Entertainment network. She is thrilled, and celebrates her success with a night on the tiles alongside her older housewife sister Debbie (Leslie Mann). Several drinks too many leads to a one night stand with 23-year-old Canadian stoner Ben Stone (Rogen). Under the influence in the dark of the nightclub, Alison is smitten with her new friend. But in the sober light of day, Ben turns out to be no more than a drugged-up slacker with no job, no money and the social habits of a teenager. (more…)

I Don’t Want To Sleep Alone (hēi yǎn quān)

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

sleepDirector Tsai Ming Liang returns to his native Malaysia to present this melancholy study of human alienation. I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone was among several films commissioned by Peter Sellars’ New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna in 2006, to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth.

If you are already a Tsai fan and enjoy his unique cinematic methods – long, steady shots of urban decay; characters who wander round aimlessly, expressing longing through gesture, glance and touch rather than coherent dialogue; and bald landscapes as a metaphor for human loneliness – then I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone may be right up your street. If, on the other hand, conventional drama with dependable characters and an obvious structure is more your cup of tea, you could be in for the longest two hours of your life.

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Slumdog Millionaire sweeps the board with eight Oscars

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

slumdog-awardsAs expected, British film Slumdog Millionaire triumphed at the Oscars this morning winning eight Academy Awards. The rags-to-riches tale set in Mumbai about an orphan who goes on to win the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director for Danny Boyle, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing, Best Score and Best Song.

Director Danny Boyle jumped up and down in delight when he collected his award. He explained that he’d made a pledge to his children that, should he win an Oscar he would “receive it in the spirit of Tigger from Winnie the Pooh”.

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Miss Potter

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

beatrix-pWatching Renee Zellweger scribble frantically into a notebook whilst musing to herself in characteristic British staccato, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled upon another Bridget Jones sequel. But whilst Brigit and Beatrix may share some character traits, the latter emerges as a brilliant, headstrong woman whose continual struggle against her restrictive upper-class background pays its returns.

Set in turn of the century London, Miss Potter begins in the publishing house of Frederick Warne and Sons, where Beatrix is hoping to secure a contract for her first book, ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’, after several failed attempts with other establishments. The proprietors decide to take her on as a first project for their younger brother, Norman (Ewan McGregor), who is looking for a leg-up into the industry. Far from dismissing Beatrix’ tale as no more than childish scribbling, as do his brothers, Norman is as fascinated by her illustrations as she is and helps to propel the book into the bestseller lists. Beatrix strikes up a friendship with Norman’s sister Millie (Emily Watson) and eventually Norman proposes, much to the chagrin of Beatrix’ snobbish parents who shudder at the thought of their only daughter marrying into “trade” and insist the engagement be kept secret.

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Crouching Tiger/Kung Fu Hustle box set

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

crouching-tiger-dvdThe newly released double box set of Ang Lee’s enigmatic epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Stephen Chow’s slapstick farce Kung Fu Hustle (2004) couldn’t offer two more different perspectives on the Wuxia genre of filmmaking.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a great deal more than a mere kung fu film. This sweeping, majestic fable is a near masterpiece, combining beautiful cinematography, fight scenes that will take your breath away and a two touching love stories with very different outcomes.

Based on the fourth part of a 1930s pentalogy by novelist Wang Du Lu with a script by James Schamus, Crouching Tiger is concerned with the theft of a holy sword, the Green Destiny, which belongs to the legendary warrior Li Mubai (Chow Yun-Fat). Looking for a quieter life, Mubai entrusts his sword to the gifted martial artist Yu Shulien (Michelle Yeoh), with whom he shares an unspoken love. Yu takes the sword to Beijing, where she meets Jen (Zhang Ziyi), the teenage daughter of a political bigwig, whose nurse bears a striking resemblance to the murderous witch Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-Pei). But when the sword is stolen, everyone leaps into action in a frantic search to retrieve it.

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RocknRolla

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

rock2Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla has one thing in its favour: it is better than his last two movies – Swept Away, the awful Madge-on-a-beach romantic comedy that fared so badly in the US it never even made it to British cinema screens, and the nearly incoherent Revolver. Here Guy Ritchie returns to the familiar territory of London’s seedy underworld that we saw in the 1998 Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and its 2000 follow-up Snatch.

The problem with RocknRolla is that despite a homoerotic twist and a fresh cast, we’ve basically seen it all before. With the exception of a couple of tough-talking females, Ritchie essentially offers us ‘geezer’ cinema created around his trademark formula – gangland parody packed out with well-mounted action sequences, slick visuals, eclectic scoring and some witty hardman banter from an array of mockney thesps.

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