Director: Doug Liman
Featuring: Naomi Watts, Sean
When Jo Wilson wrote
an Op Ed piece in the New York Times in 2003 saying that the Bush administration
had massaged reports about the Iraqi weapons of mass-destruction to justify the
Iraq War, some elements in the White House took it upon themselves to wreck his
life and the life of his wife, whom they revealed to be an CIA agent. Her life
was put at risk, as were the lives of her many contacts. The couple were branded
traitors but both fought back, with the support of elements of the liberal
press. Ultimately, White House staffers lost their jobs.
Naomi Watts and Sean Penn do a good job of conveying a marriage under
unbelievable pressure and director Liman (who began the Bourne franchise by
directing The Bourne Identity) harvests thrills out of battles they have with
All The President’s Men this ain’t and Liman hasn’t followed the route of fellow
Bourne director, Paul Greengrass, who was able to make Green Zone (a kind of
companion film) more of a shoot-em-up thriller by telling the story of the
search for WMDs on the ground in Iraq.
But this remains intense, intelligent film-making –although it also seems
something of a stale story seven years on when Afghanistan is these days the
daily headline story.
ALL GOOD THINGS
Director: Andrew Jarecki
Featuring: Ryan Gosling,
Kirsten Dunst, Frank Langella.
film-maker Jarecki might have been expected to film this story
based-on-an-unsolved 1982 murder case as non-fiction, given the massive success
he had in 2003 with Capturing The Friedmans, his documentary about a popular
children’s entertainer which turned into an expose of father and son sex
But he’s decided to make it his feature film debut – and quite a debut it is.
Gosling plays the wealthy son of a rich New York family whose wife (Dunst)
disappears. 20 years later the case is reopened and Gosling also seems to be
linked to the death of his best friend (by a bullet to the back of the head) and
an elderly neighbour.
Dunst is exemplary as the unsuspecting wife who too late starts to get
suspicious of her definitely freaky husband. Gosling really lives the (very)
warped character of the possible murderer. There are rumours that he fell out
with the director during the intense shoot and that he found such an
unsympathetic character difficult to play. He does a fine job.
The film isn’t perfect by any means – it gets muddled from time to time – but it
promises much for Jarecki for the future.
Director: Henry Joost, Ariel
Featuring: Joost, Schulman
Mr Jarecki is one of the producers of this mysterious and mostly entertaining
documentary. In New York, directors Joost and Schulman document an internet and
phone relationship developing between Schulman’s photographer brother (and
flatmate), Nev, and a singer/songwriter, Megan, a couple of thousand miles away.
Nev and Megan are in touch because Megan’s 8-year old sister did a painting of
one of Nev’s photographs and emailed it to him.
As the virtual relationship develops, Nev gets drawn into Facebook and phone
contact with all Megan’s family. But something isn’t right. Joost and the two
Schulman’s set off to find out the truth about Megan. And the truth is a not
wholly surprising but a moving and intriguing twist.
If it is the truth. The filmmakers have been accused of passing off a fiction
film as a documentary. They insist what they call a “reality thriller” is the
real thing, not a set-up, but there is stuff that doesn’t quite hold up.
Fake or fact, Catfish is still worth a look.
Director: Tony Scott
Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson
driverless train loaded with combustible material is heading for a densely
populated area at breakneck speed and Washington and Chris Pine are the only men
who can stop it. That’s all you need to know, really. Scott’s camerawork and
cutting is as dizzily frenetic as ever – can directors have Attention Deficit
Disorder? Sometimes you wish this man would just sit still and let his actors do
the work they’re paid for? Having said that, once that 6:5 special is racing
down the track his jumpiness fits right in.
Washington and Pine have a believable relationship – the former a railway vet
being forced to retire, the latter a posh kid opting for blue collar experience
- but they don’t have much time for character development among all the flashy
crash, bang, wallops.
Enjoy it for the action – and check out Konshalovsky’s The Runaway Train (made
back in the day when Eric Roberts was a contender) for a similar ride.
THE NEXT THREE DAYS
Director: Paul Haggis
Featuring: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Brian Dennehy,
This remake of a basically
implausible French movie seems an odd choice for
writer/director Paul Haggis, whose films Crash and The
Valley of Elah were harrowing, realistic dramas. There’s
realism here, too, especially in the relationship
between Crowe and Banks – who both do fine work – but
the notion that a college professor (Crowe) should turn
into action man to break his wife (Banks) out of the
prison in which she’s been incarcerated for murder, is
too much for this viewer to take in what is otherwise a
Nuance is added because we don’t know whether Banks is
guilty or innocent for most of the film and there are
many tense and dramatic moments in the film. For
instance, Crowe funds the break and the getaway by
committing an armed robbery on a meths lab. The acting
is uniformly excellent.
This is definitely a film worth seeing but, ultimately,
it disappointed me simply because I couldn’t buy that
Director: Henckel von Donnersmarck
Featuring: Johnny Depp, Angeline Jolie, Paul Bettany,
months ago about this first-pairing of two of the
world’s best-looking people in a thriller set in Venice
gave me a sinking feeling. It had Knight and Day and
Salt written all over it. (Indeed Tom Cruise was
originally cast in the male lead, as he had been in Salt
before - spookily! - Jolie had played Salt.).
Then I read that the director of the awesome,
Oscar-winning, The Lives of Others was on board to
direct this and I thought that could be interesting. I
Putting Depp and Jolie together for the first time must
have seemed a great idea for the sexual chemistry –
except there ain’t any. Second rule of sex in the
movies: if we know they’re happily in partnerships in
real life, it’s not sexy. (The First Rule is: the same
applies but more so if they are that partnership in real
Worse for me, Jolie’s public persona - mad as a bag of
snakes, accumulating children - gets in the way of me
taking her seriously as an actor.
So you’re left with two good-looking actors in a
thriller set in Venice directed by an Oscar-winning
director. Still could be good. With Steven Berkoff as
the bad guy? The director is channelling Beverley Hills
Cop? Except that film had humour and energy and cracked
along at a good pace.
The Tourist muddles along. It’s a remake of French film
Anthony Zimmer so I guess they’re saddled with the plot.
They could have made the dialogue a bit more sparkling
The film starts out with Jolie trailed around Paris by
Scotland Yard men. She is instructed by the former lover
the cops are after to go to Venice by train, pick out a
man who looks like her former lover and persuade the
police it’s him.
Naturally the man she chooses is Depp. (He must get told
he looks like other men all the time.) Then there are
chases and romance and twists and a final twist that
depending on your point of view is crap or, well, pretty
Let’s hope for better for all concerned for the future.
From April Depp will be working with Tim Burton yet
again on the film of the 1960s vampire soap opera Dark
Shadows. Jolie, meanwhile, is directing her first film:
a romance set during the 1990s Bosnian war. And that’s
all I have to say about that
BURKE & HARE
Director: John Landis
Featuring: Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Tom Wilkinson.
Oh dear. John Landis made one terrific scary comedy – An
American Werewolf In London – a long, long time ago. The
story of Burke and Hare isn’t inherently scary, it’s
just sad as these impoverished Edinburgh drunkards
murdered their even more impoverished lodgers and sold
their bodies to doctors teaching anatomy.
Landis, Pegg and Serkis do their best to mix the horror
and the laughs but Pegg’s limited comic schtick has worn
thin by now and I found the film hard-going. The story
is so thin Landis has added a bizarre sub-plot involving
Burke and an all-female production of Macbeth that has
nothing to do with anything.
Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood - I know other critics
enjoyed it - but I found the whole thing dire
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