Archive for May, 2009

The Chorus (Les Choristes)

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

chorusAnyone who’s seen Lean on Me, Dead Poets Society or Mr Holland’s Opus will know the story. A class of unruly/disillusioned/neglected kids are introduced to a teacher whose influence will forever change their lives. This will require a new approach and some radical ideas, which will inevitably irritate the stuffier establishment until behaviour improves, results go up and the kids have a new zeal for learning and life.

This time the teacher’s name is Clément Mathieu (Gérard Jugnot), a middle aged bachelor and failed musician who has come to work at the Fond de l’Etang boarding school. Roughly translated “bottom of the pond”, the name says it all. The boys are considered as pond scum – too unruly for ordinary schools, unwanted and unloved. The camera adores the fair-headed Pierre (Jean-Baptiste Maunier), a troublemaker with the voice of an angel. Mathieu is also new to the school, and when he hears the boys singing his eyes light up. He decides to start a choir, which will give the boys a focus and keep them out of trouble.

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Yes Man

Monday, May 25th, 2009

nebraskaIn the 1997 hit Liar Liar Jim Carrey played the role of a lawyer who suddenly finds himself unable to lie. In Yes Man he becomes a bank loan executive who cannot say “no” to anything. But where the former found comedy in the tension between wanting to lie and being compelled to tell the truth, Yes Man falls flat because there is nothing intrinsically funny about a loan officer having to approve loans and also wanting to.

When the film opens, Carrey’s character Carl is a down-in-the-dumps recluse who has shunned his friends and ignored his answer machine messages for three years, ever since the love of his life walked out on him. His negative attitude proves useful in his job, which involves consistently rejecting his customers’ loan applications. It also means he is unfriendly to everyone he meets, including his chipper boss Norm (Rhys Darby) who is desperate to win Carl’s friendship.

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Star Trek – in cinemas now

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

star-trekAs a sworn non-Trekkie who generally detests science fiction, I was awaiting Star Trek with some trepidation. Could I take a story seriously which claimed that the evolution of languages on other planets had so exactly matched our own that their inhabitants spoke a perfect North American vernacular? Could a film about non-existent creatures with squashed-up faces who seem bent on destruction for destruction’s sake really hold my attention for a whole two hours and seven minutes?

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Persepolis

Monday, May 18th, 2009

persepolisBased on the autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis is an animated coming-of-age tale set against the backdrop of the Iranian revolution. Told through the eyes of a child (as reflected in Satrapi’s simplistic yet expressive black-and-white artwork), the story gives a potted history of modern Iran and shows how the various political upheavals affect her own liberal-minded family on a personal and often tragic level.

Though based in a Middle-Eastern context, Satrapi’s film is truly universal in its appeal and sentiment. After translations of the original novel met with worldwide success, Satrapi told the New York Times, “Suddenly I said to myself, ‘This is a universal story.’ I want to show that all dictatorships, no matter if it’s Chile, the Cultural Revolution in China or communist Poland, it’s the same schematic.”

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

wolverineThe first in series of planned prequels to the original X-Men films, Wolverine traces the violent history of the titular mutant whose knuckles conceal sharp, lethal blades. An aggressive marketing campaign will no doubt attract Marvel readers in droves, but viewing figures threaten to peter out when audiences realised they’ve been conned into watching what is merely a bland and unnecessary money-spinner.

The story begins in 1840 in the Northwest Territories of Canada, where a young Logan (aka Wolverine)  unwittingly kills his father and later throws himself into the turbulence of war. As it happens, Canada wasn’t founded until 1867, but why let historical accuracy get in the way of a ‘good’ plot?

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I’ve Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t’aime)

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

deux-soeursIn I’ve Loved You So Long, writer and first-time director Philippe Claudel offers an intelligent, powerfully emotional drama about pain and healing, loss and redemption.

Kristin Scott Thomas stars as Juliette, who has just been released from prison after serving a 15 years for a crime which isn’t revealed at first, but which we gather is pretty terrible. Her estranged sister Léa (Else Zylberstein), a literature professor at the University of Nancy, agrees to let Juliette stay at her home which is shared by her husband Luc (Serge Hazanavicius), ailing father-in-law Papy Paul (Jean-Claude Arnaud) and two adopted daughters from Vietnam (Lise Segur and Liliy-Rose).

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Hannah Montana: The Movie – in cinemas now

Friday, May 8th, 2009

hannah-montana1The TV sitcom that shot 16-year-old Miley Cyrus to megastardom has now spawned a move of the same name. As well as being a guaranteed cash cow for Disney, the move also heralds a comeback for Miley’s dad Billy Ray Cyrus, who became a one-hit-wonder with the tremendously irritating ‘Achy Breaky Heart’.

For those not familiar with Disney’s teenage phenomenon, Hannah Montana the pop star alter ego of Miley Stewart, who lives a double life thanks to one blonde wig. It’s no wonder that she commands such an impassioned tween following: here bere we see her living the dream of being both an ordinary teenager and massively successful pop star.

A predictable plot sees Miley get too big for her boots and being whisked off to the country by her Billy Ray, who plays her onscreen father, where she rediscovers the simple life and renounces the consumerism of Beverly Hills. But the folks back in Tennessee have no idea that Miley has become world famous as Hannah Montana, so she has to keep switching identities.

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Good Night, and Good Luck

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

good-luckWe are all fat, lazy and complacent. We use television as a way of switching our minds off to what is going on in the world around us. The media has great potential to educate, to promote political debate, to bring about justice, yet we are contented with air-headed trash if it brings in a few bucks through advertising.

This is the message that Edward Murrow gives to a room of CBS employees in 1958, but one that could apply equally today. In his second film as director, which was shot when the ‘war on terror’ was in full swing, Clooney offers a rebuke to contemporary US journalists who lose sight of the truth because they are too concerned with appeasing advertisers and the government. Clooney can’t be accused of falling into this camp: he was paid $1 each for writing, directing, and acting in the film and even offered to mortgage his house in order to fund it. Clooney would have been familiar with newsrooms of this era because his father was a news anchor for some 30 years.

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