Monday, August 27, 2012

Crisp Criticism - "Damsels in Distress", "Celeste and Jesse Forever", "Bernie", "The Pirates! Band of Misfits"

Julien Faddoul

Damsels in Distress (2012/US)   **

A trio of girls set out to change the male-dominated environment of a college campus, and to rescue their fellow students from depression, grunge and low standards of every kind.

Another one of Stillman’s uber-dry delineations of twenty-something intelligence and the arrogance that comes with it. This one works best when it isn’t being too judgmental. 

wd – Whit Stillman
ph – Doug Emmett
pd – Elizabeth J. Jones
m – Mark Suozzo
ed – Andrew Hafitz
cos – Ciera Wells

p – Whit Stillman

Cast: Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody, Analeigh Tipton, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Carrie MacLemore, Hugo Becker, Ryan Metcalf

Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012/US)

A divorcing couple tries to maintain their friendship while they both pursue other people.

An inorganic indie slog with faux-idealistic writing and a cast that thinks every gesture they make and every emotion they propel is gold. 

d – Lee Toland Krieger
w – Rashida Jones, Will McCormack
ph – David Lanzenberg
pd – Ian Phillips
m – Zach Crowie, Sunny Levine
ed – Yana Gorskaya
cos – Julia Caston

p – Lee Nelson, Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd

Cast: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts, Eric Christian Olsen, Ari Graynor, Chris Messina, Rich Sommer, Rafi Gavron, Matthew Del Negro

Bernie (2012/US)   **

In small-town Texas, the local, sweet-natured mortician strikes up a friendship with a wealthy widow and then kills her.
Dark comedy based on a true story, filled with Linklater humour; enjoyable before it seeps into redundancy. 

d – Richard Linklater
w – Richard Linklater, Skip Hollandsworth   (Based on the Article by Skip Hollandsworth)
ph – Dick Pope
pd – Bruce Curtis
m – Graham Reynolds
ed – Sandra Adair
cos – Kari Perkins

p – Richard Linklater, Liz Glotzer, David McFadzean, Dete Meserve, Judd Payne, Celine Rattray, Martin Shafer, Ginger Sledge, Matt Williams

Cast: Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, Shirley MacLaine, Rick Dial, Sonny Carl Davis, Brandon Smith

The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012/UK)   *

A pirate captain sets out on a mission to defeat his rivals for the Pirate of the year Award.
Fun and often funny Aardman feature, their second with Sony Pictures Animation, but the wit and charm of their earlier films with Dreamworks Animation is lost.

d – Peter Lord
co-d – Jeff Newitt
w – Gideon Defoe   (Based on the Book by Gideon Defoe)
ph – Frank Passingham
pd – Norman Garwood
m – Theodore Shapiro
ed – Justin Krish

p – Peter Lord, David Sproxton, Julie Lockhart

Cast: Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Jeremy Piven, Salma Hayek, Lenny Henry, Brian Blessed, Russell Tovey, Brendan Gleeson, Ashley Jensen

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Crisp Criticism - "The Bourne Legacy", "The Expendables 2", "The Campaign"

The Bourne Legacy (2012/US)

After Jason Bourne exposes their operations, the CIA decides to eliminate all other experiments of the sort, which includes an agent with enhanced mental and physical abilities who refuses to go quietly.
Dull, overlong entry in the otherwise charming series, with its main character cast aside and its director’s chair filled by the screenwriter. For these reasons, Gilroy is more interested in the science and history of the novels, making the experience less like an adventure and more like an exam.
d – Tony Gilroy
w – Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy   (Based on the Novel by Robert Ludlum)
ph – Robert Elswit
pd – Kevin Thompson
m – James Newton Howard
ed – John Gilroy
cos – Shay Cunliffe

p – Patrick Crowley, Frank Marshall, Ben Smith, Jeffrey M. Weiner

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Zeljko Ivanek, Oscar Isaac, Stacey Keach, David Stratharin, Joan Allen, Scott Glenn, Albert Finney, Donna Murphy, Corey Stoll, Elizabeth Marvel, Louis Ozawa Changchien

The Expendables 2 (2012/US)

The Expendables reunite for what should be an easy paycheck, but when one of their men is murdered on the job, their quest for revenge puts them deep in enemy territory and up against an unexpected threat.
Superfluous sequel; less dumb than the original.
d – Simon West
w – Richard Wenk, Sylvester Stallone, Ken Kaufman, David Agosto   (Based on the Characters by Dave Callanham)
ph – Shelly Johnson
pd – Paul Cross
m – Brian Tyler
ed – Todd E. Miller
cos – Lizz Wolf

p – Basil Iwanyk, Avi Lerner, Danny Lerner, Kevin King Templeton, John Thompson, Les Weldon

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Liam Hemsworth, Terry Crews, Randy Coulture, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Campaign (2012/US)

In order to gain influence over their North Carolina district, two CEOs seize an opportunity to oust a long-term congressman by putting up a rival candidate.
Tired, mean-spirited, hardly accurate satire that is yet another comedy filled with stupid people doing stupid things that don’t make sense. This one also goes soft at the end.
d – Jay Roach
w – Shawn Harwell, Chris Henchy
ph – Jim Denault
pd – Michael Corenblith
m – Theodore Shapiro
ed – Craig Alpert, Jon Poll
cos – Daniel Orlandi

p – Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Adam McKay, Jay Roach

Cast: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Dylan McDermott, Katherine LaNasa, Sarah Baker, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd, Brian Cox, Karen Maruyama, Grant Goodman, Kya Haywood,

Retrospective: 5 Powell & Pressburger Films

I Know Where I’m Going (1945/UK)   **

A determined girl travelling to the Hebrides to marry a wealthy old man, marries a naval officer instead.
A strange assembling of Powell and Pressburger elements and British rudiments of the time that proved subtly influential in parts; as a whole it remains a puzzle.
wd – Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
ph – Erwin Hiller
pd – Alfred Junge
m – Allan Gray
ed – John Seabourne

p – Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Cast: Wendy Hiller, Roger Livesey, Pamela Brown, Finlay Curris, George Carney, Nancy Price, Catherine Lacey, John Laurie

A Matter of Life and Death (1946/UK)   ****

A brain-damaged pilot is torn between this world and the next after he bails out of a plane.
An absolutely outrageous and mammoth undertaking which, with its haughtiness, style, wit and flair, cemented Powell and Pressburger’s hallmark on all fantasy films. It is profound and hilarious in equally heavy doses.
wd – Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
ph – Jack Cardiff
pd – Alfred Junge
m – Allan Gray
ed – Reginald Mills

p – Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Cast: David Niven, Roger Livesey, Raymond Massey, Kim Hunter, Marius Goring, Abraham Sofaer, Robert Coote, Joan Maude, Kathleen Byron, Bonar Colleano, Richard Attenborough

Black Narcissus (1947/UK)   ***

Five Anglo-Catholic nuns take over a harem in the Himalayas and turn it into a convent school.
An episodic and modest tale directed with sheer cinematic beauty, both visually and emotionally.
wd – Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger   (Based on the Novel by Rumer Godden)
ph – Jack Cardiff
pd – Alfred Junge
m – Brian Easdale
ed – Reginald Mills
cos – Hein Heckroth

p – Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Cast: Deborah Kerr, David Farrar, Sabu, Flora Robson, Kathleen Byron, Jean Simmons, Esmond Knight, Jenny Laird, Judith Furse

The Red Shoes (1948/UK)   ****

Tragic consequences ensue when a young a ballerina becomes a star and is forced to choose between love and her career.
A masterful backstage drama and a graceful paean to the artist’s plight combine to make one of the most beautiful of all films. From its rather simple story, the filmmakers produce exciting characters, splendorous visuals, exceptional performances and an impeccable ballet.
wd – Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
ph – Jack Cardiff
pd – Hein Heckroth, Arthur Lawson
m – Brian Easdale
ed – Reginald Mills
cos – Hein Heckroth

p – Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Cast: Anton Walbrook, Moira Shearer, Marius Goring, Robert Helpmann, Albert Basserman, Frederick Ashton, Leonide Massine, Ludmilla Tcherina, Esmond Knight

The Battle of the River Plate (1956/UK)   *

In 1939, the German pocket battleship “Graf Spee” is trapped in Montevideo Harhour.
Confusing, dull, patchy and all-around disappointing studio-bound war epic from this incandescent pair. It’s mostly notable for its sympathetic view of a German commander.
wd – Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
ph – Christopher Challis
pd – Arthur Lawson
m – Brian Easdale
ed – Reginald Mills

p – Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Cast: John Gregson, Anthony Quayle, Peter Finch, Bernard Lee, Ian Hunter, Jack Gwillim, Lionel Murton, Anthony Bushell, Peter Illing