Archive for September, 2009

Star-studded epic marks 60 years of communism in China

Friday, September 18th, 2009

maoThe Founding of a Republic, a star-studded epic which marks the 60th Anniversary of China’s Communist revolution, opens in UK cinemas on Thursday.

The film, which tells the story of the communist rise to power in 1949 from Chairman Mao’s days as a young soldier, was made by the state-run China Film Group, and stars over 100 of the country’s best-known actors, including Hong Kong king-fu heros Jackie Chan and Jet Li, as well as Crouching Tiger actress Zhang Ziyi.

The film’s producers hope that the cast list and subject matter will attract both older viewers and the internet-savvy younger generation, with the film tipped to be one of the highest-grossing films the country has seen for years.


Chungking Express (Chung Hing sam lam)

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

chungking-expressReleased in 1994, Chungking Express is one of Wong Kar-Wai’s best-known films, and provides a good introduction his cinematic style. Following on from the director’s first masterpiece, Days of Being Wild, the film explores themes of isolation and despair in the big city, and an escapist desire captured in the song “California Dreaming” which is played repeatedly throughout the movie.

The film revolves around two Hong Kong cops, both of whom wander the city, haunted by memories of lost love. Their stories are told separately, one following the other, and they cross each other’s path only fleetingly. In the first, Taiwanese policemen He Qiwu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) remembers a former girlfriend by collecting tins of pineapples that expire on the 1st of May, a month after she left him. “I wonder if there’s anything in the world that won’t expire,” he muses. One night, Qiwu becomes transfixed by a mysterious blonde-wigged woman he meets in a bar who drags him into the seedy underworld of Hong Kong’s Chungking Mansions, a labyrinth of fast food stalls, market places and squalid guesthouses. Christopher Doyle’s frenetic camerawork captures perfectly the restlessness of this neon city, weaving in and out of noisy streets and dingy corridors in a frenzied sequence of colour, light and action.



Friday, September 11th, 2009

doubtAdapted from director John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play, Doubt explores notions of tradition, truth and compassion, and demonstrates the catastrophic consequences of blind justice.

The film is set in and around the church of St Nicholas, a largely Irish-American parish in the Bronx of 1964 – a year after America’s first Catholic president was assassinated. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the jovial and kind-hearted Father Flynn, a modernising priest who believes the old orders should serve the wider church community with compassion, rather than sitting above the laity in moral aloofness. The austere Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), who runs the parish school, represents the old guard. Feared by staff and pupils alike, she believes she must protect the children in her charge from a corrupt and rapidly changing world, which means no dancing, no ballpoint pens and certainly no secular songs.


I Love You, Man

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

romantic-dinnerWhilst Judd Apatow’s name may not appear on the closing credits, his influence in this so-called “bromantic-comedy” is palpable. Following in the footsteps of Apatow’s irreverent comedies Superbad and Pineapple Express, I Love You Man, written and directed by John Hamburg, probes the concept of “man-love” – that intimate, zealous friendship between two straight males – with perception, wit, and plenty of cringeworthy moments along the way.

Apatow alumnus Paul Rudd plays Peter Klaven, an awkward nice-guy who begins the film proposing to his long-term girlfriend Zooey (Rushida Jones). Always more comfortable in female company, Peter realises he doesn’t have any close male friends to perform the role of best man, and so embarks on a series of luckless “man-dates” in an attempt to widen his circle of friends. After some predictable misunderstandings (such as when dinner with the seemingly perfect Doug turns a bit gay), Peter finds his man.


Rachel Getting Married

Friday, September 4th, 2009

rachelA modern-day prodigal, Kym (the beautiful Anne Hathaway) is the recovering drug-addict who takes a day’s leave from rehab to celebrate the wedding of her sister. But the cracks in their fragile relationship soon show when Kym’s problems threaten to upstage the bride on her big day.

In spite of its seemingly transparent title, Rachel Getting Married is far more concerned with the wastrel sister than Rachel herself. Wearing her scars like a badge of honour, Kym is at once vulnerable and bristlingly obnoxious, revealing her egocentric perspective at the most inappropriate of moments. One such incident is the wedding speech in which Kym offers an overblown apology for her behaviour over the years, once again taking the spotlight off the married couple, and back onto Kym and her “issues”. One can’t help but cringe.


Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

springSteeped in Buddhist philosophy and set against the backdrop of a remote Korean lake, Kim Ki-duk’s Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring focuses on the relationship between an elderly monk and his young protégé.

The film is set out in a series of five vignettes which correspond to the titular seasons. In the first, Spring, the child protégé is taught a lesson about respect. In a spirit of boyish experimentation, he ties stones around the bodies of a fish, a frog and a snake, as his master silently looks on. That night the older monk ties a heavy rock to the boy as he is sleeping, which won’t be taken off until he frees the animals. There is a comic element to this very fitting punishment, but it also places a heavy burden of responsibility on the young boy’s shoulders: if any of the animals have died as a result of their entrapment, the old man warns, “you will carry this stone in your heart for the rest of your life.”