Archive for July, 2009

Fireproof

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

fireproofWritten and directed by brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick, Fireproof is an inspirational film about a troubled marriage that is given a new lease of life through faith.

Kirk Cameron plays Caleb, a fire-fighter whose loveless marriage to Catherine is on the rocks. Caleb’s work motto is “never leave your partner behind”, but he fails to apply this to Catherine (Erin Bethea), who, as well as holding down a demanding PR job is also responsible for doing the weekly shop, cleaning up after her lazy husband and caring for her ailing parents. Caleb is dedicated to his job, but not to his wife. A perennial slacker, he won’t lift a finger when it comes to the housework and spends most of his time “pleasuring himself on the Internet”, as Catherine tersely puts it, and obsessing about the sailing boat he plans to buy.

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Revolutionary Road

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

revolutionary_roadIn this tale of domestic strife, Sam Mendes returns to a familiar theme: the tarnished American Dream. However, the scathing satire of his directorial debut, American Beauty, takes on a far bleaker tone in Revolutionary Road. Based on Richard Yates’ 60s novel, the film reunites Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet for the first time since James Cameron’s smash hit Titanic in 1997.

Following in the footsteps of the 1966 film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, the story follows Frank Wheeler and his wife April, a young couple trapped in a marriage of conformity during the fifties. Frank works in a job he hates, yet affects an air of superiority, believing he’s destined for a better life, though clueless as to what that life might be. His wife is a typical 50’s homemaker, raising two children in the couple’s immaculate suburban home and wondering what has become of her youthful ambitions. It’s a tarnished version of the American Dream. “Look at us,” April moans to Frank. “We’re just like everyone else. We’ve bought into the same ridiculous delusion – this idea that you have to settle down and resign from life.”

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Angels and Demons

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

religious-folkRon Howard’s adaptation of Dan Brown’s religious thriller The Da Vinci Code was one of the highest-grossing films of the decade, earning over US$230 million worldwide in its opening weekend. Yet you’d be hard pushed to find a critic who gave its contrived storyline and turgid script the thumbs up. Angels and Demons, which comes before The Da Vinci Code in Dan Brown’s canon but has been adapted for the big screen as a sequel, is slicker and pacier than its predecessor. Howard, along with adapters Akiva Goldsman and David Koepp, stick less rigidly to Dan Brown’s clunky prose this time round, resulting in a more confident, dazzling production. Unfortunately, despite the film’s glossy exterior, it tells a story that is both convoluted and, at time, utterly ludicrous.

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Four Minutes (Vier Minuten)

Monday, July 13th, 2009

vier_minutenFour minutes takes the familiar theme of the tortured, misunderstood artist and plays it out in the setting of a modern-day women’s prison. The artist in question is Jenny (Hannah Herzsprung), a young, violent piano-playing genius who is locked up for murder. She finds solace in her tentative friendship with a cantankerous old piano teacher, Traude (Monica Bleibtreu), who herself conceals a secret past. The pair bond over music, which also gives them respite from a cruel and corrupt world.

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Shower (Xizao)

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

shower_dvd_coverSet in contemporary Beijing, Zhang Yang’s bittersweet comedy Shower focuses on the proprietor of a traditional Beijing bathhouse, Mr Liu (Xu Zhu), and his relationship with his two sons. The eldest, Daming (Pu Quianxin), is a rich yuppie who fled the family home to pursue a business career in the southern Chinese region of Shenzhen. He lost contact with his elderly father years ago, but has returned after receiving an alarming postcard from his mentally challenged younger brother, Erming (Jiang Wu), suggesting that Mr Liu has died. In fact his father is very much alive, though frail in health, and presiding over the closed world of the bathhouse, where elderly local men gather to relax away from the demands of home, exchange gossip and stage fights between their pet crickets. When Daming suggests that his father retire, Mr Liu brushes him off: “I’ve done this all of my life and I like doing it!”.

Standing faithfully at Mr Liu’s side is Erming, who takes delight in scrubbing the floors, manning the desk and greeting clients. Erming’s relationship with his father is a close one, and both take a childish delight in dousing each other with water and seeing who can run fastest round the block.

The difference in world views between Daming and his aging father is cleverly played out in the opening scene, where we see a smartly dressed businessman step into a coin-operated shower akin to a carwash. This is in direct contrast to Mr Liu’s establishment, where men will spend literally all day bathing, soaking and enjoying a whole range of peripheral services, including haircuts, massage, and the benefit of Mr Liu’s wise council.

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Juno

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

junoJason Reitman’s Juno must be the best comedy of 2007. Dealing with the messy issue of teenage pregnancy, the film is touching, witty and insightful, without slipping into mawkishness or didacticism. Ellen Page positively shines in her role as the plucky and kind-hearted Juno, whilst professional stripper-turned-screenwriter Diablo Cody fashions a potentially turgid storyline into a brightly articulate comedy.

Ellen Page plays Juno McGuff, a 16 year old high school student who decides that it’s time she experienced sex, and enlists her less than eager best friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera) to help. The inevitable happens and Juno initially opts for a quick abortion, until she takes a trip to the drab, industrial estate clinic and gets cold feet. Juno thinks she is too young to raise the child herself, and, following the suggestion of her cheerleading friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby), sets about finding a pair of adoptive parents through adverts placed in the local free newspaper.

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The Wind That Shakes the Barley

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

the-wind-that-shakes-the-barleyLanding director Ken Loach a Palme D’Or at the 2006 Cannes film festival, The Wind That Shakes the Barley charts the IRA’s attempts to oust the British in the early 1920s and the civil war that followed the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922.

The film opens in 1920 as newly-qualified doctor Damien O’Donovan (Cillian Murphey) abandons his plans to find work in a London hospital after he witnesses the brutal murder of his childhood friend by British Black and Tan troops. Along with his brother Teddy (Pádraic Delaney), Damian joins a “flying column” of the embryonic IRA, which exploits its superior knowledge of the Irish countryside to take pot shots at unsuspecting British troops. As the brothers’ zeal increases, so do their acts of violence, which include the shooting of unarmed British landlords and childhood friends who have aligned themselves with the occupying nation.

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