|This Is England
Thomas Turgoose, Stephen Graham, Jo Hartley, Andrew Shim, Vicky McClure, Joseph Gilgun
|Drawing upon experiences from his childhood, writer/director Shane Meadows uses autobiography and period detail to fashion an affecting coming-of-age drama that also addresses the social and political turmoil of England in the early 1980s and offers a chilling glimpse into the era's skinhead movement. Shaun, a 12-year-old boy played with verity and tenacity by fledgling actor Thomas Turgoose, is living in the economically strapped British Midlands with his mother. His father recently died in the Falklands War, and the heartsick, aimless Shaun must deal with bullying at school and loneliness, until he falls in with a band of roughneck skinhead kids who offer protection and camaraderie. Grateful to be accepted, Shaun begins to spend all of his time with his new friends and adopts their knockabout sartorial style. This scruffy gang, led by the amiable Woody (Joe Gilgun), may enjoy vandalism, but they're mostly interested in the fashion and music that mark skinhead culture, which, at its worst, is a violent, racist manifestation of right-wing fascism. One of Woody's crew is even of Jamaican descent, which doesn't seem to be a problem until older pal Combo (Stephen Graham) shows up after some jail time and wants the skins to embrace more radical neo-Nazi doctrine. Woody isn't so sure, but Shaun, eager for empowerment, sees Combo as a father figure. When Combo tries to coerce the skins into truly dangerous, destructive behavior, Shaun must decide how far he's willing to go to be a part of something bigger. Meadows gets terrific performances out of his young cast, accurately depicts the skinhead life to a rousing soundtrack of vintage ska and R&B tunes, and paints a troubling, resonant portrait of lives out of balance.
|A Mighty Heart
Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman
Based on Mariane Pearl's first-person account of her husband and fellow journalist Daniel's 2002 kidnapping by Muslim terrorists in Karachi, Pakistan, "A Mighty Heart" is the latest feature-length docudrama to reference the tragedy and aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on America. And it's an insightful, thorough, even-handed recreation of the Pearls' ordeal, with substantial tension and emotional punch despite the story being common knowledge. The film stars Angelina Jolie and Dan Futterman as Mariane and Daniel, and is directed by Michael Winterbottom ("24 Hour Party People") with precision and an eye for the turbulent, exotic Karachi setting. Although it's a product of the same nightmare as the harrowing in-flight thriller "United 93" and the melodramatic tabloid-style drama "World Trade Center," it's a more personal and tightly focused movie. "A Mighty Heart" is, after all, as much about a husband and wife as it is about global crisis. Yes, Daniel Pearl is a respected Wall Street Journal reporter whose disappearance in a foreign country became an international incident that mobilized local security forces, the U.S. government, and the world media. But his relationship with Mariane brings palpable humanity to the reportage. After Daniel disappears on his way to an interview with an Islamic radical, Marianne becomes the emotional center of "A Mighty Heart." Jolie plays her subtly as a mixture of grace, fortitude, hope, pragmatism and reserve. One of Winterbottom's previous films was "In This World," a dark socio-political odyssey stretching from the Middle East to Western Europe, so this is familiar turf for him. His knack for adroitly juggling a wealth of characters and issues keeps "A Mighty Heart" beating strong.
Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová
"Once" is more than enough. This cinematic treat from Ireland is a simple story told with grace and heart, a bittersweet slice of Bohemian life, and a glimpse at the wondrous alchemy of music-making complete with a handful of swoon-worthy original songs played with skill and deep feeling. It's also a showcase for the talents of Glen Hansard, the genial leader of the fine Irish rock band The Frames, and Markéta Irglová, winsome Czech singer and instrumentalist. In this unconventional, unpretentious, naturalistic film from director/screenwriter John Carney, two lost souls find solace in one another, and in the power of music. Their relationship starts in an offhand manner: A busker (Hansard) sings and plays his guitar on the streets of Dublin for spare change from passersby. A young Eastern European woman (Irglová) approaches and compliments him. Their random encounter triggers a connection that, in a matter of days, develops into something personally and artistically profound. You can call it a love story, but it's decidedly not the Hollywood variety. Besides depicting the catalytic effect that these two people have on one another, "Once" captures the ways that music is conjured the loneliness of the creative process, and the joy of collaboration and how music can reflect one's life the struggles, the setbacks, the triumphs and how it can transfigure people. Although light on plot, flash, and splash, it's a little picture that offers big rewards: touching drama, a bit of whimsy, and achingly beautiful tunes that you may want to seek out on disc or MP3 when the show is over.
|Starter For 10
James McAvoy, Rebecca Hall, Alice Eve, Catherine Tate, Dominic Cooper, Charles Dance, Lindsay Duncan
Adapted for the screen by David Nicholls from his own novel and directed in lively fashion by Tom Vaughan, the droll, semi-sweet British comedy "Starter for 10" is one of the better coming-of-age movies to come down the motorway in a while. It follows the undergrad experiences of Brian a hapless, nerdy, yet determined working-class lad from an economically-strapped seaside town during the mid-1980s when Margaret Thatcher still reigned as England's prime minister. Brian has a sharp memory and, since childhood, he's nurtured an obsession with televised quiz programs, particularly "University Challenge," a "College Bowl"-type show that his late father enjoyed. With diligence, Brian accumulates a massive store of general knowledge and specific trivia, which helps gain him entry to Bristol University. But he believes that the only way he can stand out next to his cooler or more posh classmates is if he makes the school's quiz team and leads them to victory on "University Challenge." James McAvoy, best known as the young doctor attending Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland," is amusing and charming as Bryan. His self-deprecating nature, vulnerability, and underdog status get you on his side, even when he displays some serious lapses in judgment. A well-chosen supporting cast includes sketch-comedy doyenne Catherine Tate as Brian"s mum; and Rebecca Hall ("The Prestige") and Alice Eve as two very different coeds who divide Brian's affections. And the period soundtrack bursting with the appropriate UK alt-rock sounds of the day such as The Cure, the Psychedelic Furs, Echo & The Bunnymen, Tears for Fears, and The Smiths does a spot-on job of reinforcing time and place.
Julianne Nicholson, Justin Kirk, Rebecca Schull, Jamie Harrold, Michelle Federer, Tom Bower, Jamie Harris, Chelsea Altman, Stephanie March
Ever fallen in love? Been in a committed relationship? Hit a rough patch with your partner? Did you fear that it all might fall apart? If the answer to any of those questions is "yes," you may smile, then shudder with recognition, at the brutally honest, painfully realistic drama "Flannel Pajamas." Directing from his own screenplay, indie-film exec Jeff Lipsky displays an unerring ear for the public and private conversations of Nicole and Stuart an attractive, neurotic, upwardly-mobile Manhattan couple from
their first meeting and infatuation with one another, though a period of sexual
fulfillment and general contentment, to marriage and increasing friction, and
eventually to a tipping point in their union. There is a cinema verité feel and the smack of autobiography about this potent, no-frills two-hour feature. Its greatest strength lies in the fearless, soul-baring performances Lipsky draws from his lead actors. Julianne Nicholson is a fascinating mix of wariness, carelessness and wholesome appeal as aspiring caterer Nicole, an Irish-Catholic woman from a troubled Midwestern family; and Justin Kirk nails the role of successful Broadway publicist Stuart, a smart, brash, controlling Jewish man from Long Island. Although Nicole and Stuart are drawn together by chemical attraction, his self-centered attitude, her impatience, and their respective friends and backgrounds are emotional time-bombs waiting to go off. Lipsky, like an acolyte of Ingmar Bergman on Woody Allen's turf, hits us with the explosions and exposes us to the fallout.
Anton Newcombe, Courtney Taylor, Joel Gion, Matt Hollywood, Peter Holmstrom, Zia McCabe, Brent DeBoer, Eric Hedford, Dean Taylor
Two-disc set; full screen; audio commentary by members of the Brian Jonestown Massacre; audio commentary by members of the Dandy Warhols; audio commentary by the filmmakers; over two hours of previously unreleased footage and deleted scenes; Link-outs, an interactive technology allowing viewers to watch the film with extended and deleted scenes; three Dandy Warhols music videos "TV Theme Song," "Last High" (uncut version), and "Bohemian Like You" (uncut version); three Brian Jonestown Massacre live performances "Anemone," "Oh Lord," and "Jesus"; Courtney Taylor and Anton Newscombe jam session; "Where are they now?" band member updates; behind-the-scenes look at the commentary track recording sessions; footage from Courtney Taylor's MTV2 "Subterranean" appearance; "DiG!" at Sundance awards and interviews.
|One of the greatest, most straightforward, warts-and-all documentaries ever made about the rock life, "DiG!" digs into the uneasy alliance of two bands the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the love-hate relationship between the Dandys' Courtney Taylor and the BJM's Anton Newcombe, observed over a period of seven years. Taylor and Newcombe are respectively the leaders and creative directors of their respective groups; they were fast friends, each expressing unabashed admiration for the other's music. But their different career trajectories the do-it-yourself indie-rock route for the BJM and a major-label deal for the Dandys and changing fortunes created tension, discomfort and jealousy. Despite their most fervent wishes, all parties learn that it's no easy task to revolutionize rock music and have fun while doing it. Filmmaker Ondi Timoner had the documentarian's equivalent of one of those all-access concert passes and the patience to chronicle the years. The resulting footage includes lots of music from both bands at recording sessions and live shows, inter- and intra-band squabbles, off-stage tour escapades, brushes with the law, music-business machinations and talking-head reflections by most of the involved parties. Extras on the two-disc DVD set include two hours of previously unreleased footage, three complete music videos by the Dandys, and three extra live performances by the BJM.
|City Of God
Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund
Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino da Hora, Phellipe Haagense
In Portuguese; widescreen; closed caption; English, Spanish, French subtitles; "News From a Personal War" documentary.
|The streets and alleys of Rio de Janeiro provide a fetid, galvanizing locale for a walloping stun-gun of a movie from Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles. Spanning three decades, "City of God" handily combines a coming-of-age tale with an insider's view of a notorious Rio housing project where warring drug lords rule and life gets more harrowing as the years roll on. "City of God" is violent and ambitious, but it achieves everything it sets out to do. With eyes and ears for the coarse reality of slum life, Meirelles and co-director Katia Lund enhance their storytelling with high-tech, post-MTV camera techniques that bring super-charged visuals, visceral power and funky, inner-city flash to the project. The film is based on a novel by Paulo Lins, who grew up in the dead-end neighborhood known as the City of God. Lins escaped poverty and an early grave by becoming a writer. A photojournalist on a similar journey is the hero of "City of God." The photographer's odyssey, the fate of his family, friends and enemies and a near-omniscient view of the slum make this feature an unforgettable mix of crime drama and social history.
Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy, Dominique Minot, Ned Glass, Jacques Marin
Criterion Collection widescreen; new anamorphic transfer with restored image and sound; French, English subtitles; audio commentary "A conversation with Stanley Donen and screenwriter Peter Stone"; "The Films of Stanley Donen" selected filmography, with an introduction by Donen biographer Stephen M. Silverman; Peter Stone's career highlights; cast/crew biographies; original theatrical trailer.
|Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, suave and sophisticated, comprise the most glamorous couple in film history. Together, they turned the 1963 spy thriller and romance "Charade" into one of the most pleasurable experiences to be had in a movie theater. With typical attention to quality, the cineastes of the Criterion Collection assembled this new DVD of "Charade," the first to offer the feature in the widescreen anamorphic format. But that don't mean a thing if the film don't zing. It does. Riding the crest of a Cold War-era spy craze stoked by the popularity of the James Bond novels and movies, "Charade" director Stanley Donen and screenwriter Peter Stone wrapped a love story in an espionage caper. Chic Parisian resident Reggie Lampert (Hepburn) is on the verge of divorcing her husband Charlie when she learns he's been murdered. Making matters worse, everything that the couple owned has disappeared from their apartment, and their bank account is empty. Into Reggie's life comes dapper, enigmatic Peter Joshua (Grant), quick of quip and fast to action. He's just in time, because nasty men are now pursuing Reggie in the belief that she knows where Charlie's fortune is hidden. It's frenzy and frolic with a seductive score by Henry Mancini, and a super cast including Walter Matthau, James Coburn and George Kennedy.