Now in Cinemas: Reviews for May 10, 2007

Now in Cinemas: Reviews for May 10, 2007

Reviews by Jason Pirodsky
for Expats.cz

A breathtaking, beautiful, highly stylized animated film, Christian Volckman´s Renaissance represents the height of style over substance. But while the story is nothing special, the animation is so good – created by artists, not just computer technicians – that we are willing to forgive the story flaws. Design is a mixture of futuristic action and 1950´s film noir, using a stark monochrome black & white color scheme (with occasional details in color). Style has been accomplished using rotoscoping, a technique popularized by Ralph Bakshi in the 1970´s and 80´s and used wonderfully by Richard Linklater in Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, which traces a live actor´s movements and merges them with cell animation. This is the best and most accomplished the technique has ever looked, however, and Volckman´s film is near-revolutionary.



Renaissance
Rating:
Directed by Christian Volckman. Starring: Daniel Craig, Catherine McCormack, Romola Garai, Jonathan Pryce, Ian Holm, Kevork Malikyan (English Version); Patrick Floersheim, Laura Blanc, Virginie Mery, Gabriel Le Doze, Marc Cassot, Jerome Causse (French Version). Written by Alexandre de La Patelličre, Mathieu Delaporte, Jean-Bernard Pouy, Patrick Raynal.
Showtimes
IMDb link
2054 Paris: the city overshadowed by mega-corporation Avalon, which specializes in youth and beauty products. One of their researchers has been kidnapped, and detective Barthélémy Karas is assigned to the case. We follow Karas as he delves into the case, forging a relationship with the missing girl´s sister and discovering more and more about Avalon and exactly what they are after. While the story isn´t bad, it´s a bit too familiar, combining elements from the films it has taken stylistic inspiration from; it almost plays out as a combination of Blade Runner and The Third Man. Interesting throughout, but when you´re watching such a breakthrough in style, it´s a bit disappointing not to see the screenplay take similar ambition. Still wonderful – one of the best looking films in recent memory, topping Sin City in style; and not just as a standalone effort – this is much closer to Frank Miller´s graphic comics than Robert Rodriguez´s film. A real treat for animation fans.

NOTE: Above review applies to the original French-language version of the film. Catch it in English (featuring voicework by Daniel Craig and others) at Kino Světozor.

***

The Painted Veil
Rating:
Directed by John Curran. Starring Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Toby Jones, Diana Rigg, Juliet Howland, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Maggie Steed. Written by Ron Nyswaner, from the novel by W. Somerset Maugham.
Showtimes
IMDb link

Faithful, somber adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham´s classic novel is well-made all around, though like its characters, remains somewhat aloof for the duration. Naomi Watts stars as Kitty, a young socialite who agrees to marry bacteriologist Walter Fane (Edward Norton) though she doesn´t really love him. Walter, however, is deeply in love with her, and leaving for Shanghai; Kitty makes her decision based on social pressures and a desire to get as far away from her mother as possible. Once in Shanghai, she almost immediately has an affair with British official Charlie Townsend (Liev Schreiber); when Walter finds out, he volunteers to help fight cholera in a remote village as a kind of punishment for his wife, who is more or less forced to accompany him. Source material is affecting and intriguing, and that the film stays true to the literary roots makes it worthy of admiration, even if it occasionally suffers cinematically; it´s often slow-moving, and due to the characters´ relationship, toned down emotionally. Watts and Norton are effective as the leads, though they fail to truly engage the viewer; supporting cast is better, especially Toby Jones as a civil servant Waddington, Liev Schreiber as Townsend, and Diana Rigg as Mother Superior. Stunning Chinese locations, beautiful cinematography, luscious atmosphere. Excellent, haunting original score by Alexandre Desplat.

***

Wild Hogs
Rating:
Directed by Walt Becker. Starring Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy, Ray Liotta, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Durand, M.C. Gainey, Stephen Tobolowsky, John C. McGinley, Héctor Jiménez, Kyle Gass, Peter Fonda. Written by Brian Copeland.
Showtimes
IMDb link
Broad but mostly enjoyable, mildly entertaining comedy has its moments but mostly feels like a waste of comedic talent. John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy star as a quartet of middle-aged would-be bikers who decide to take a road trip to re-claim some of their youth. Along the way they come across the usual pitfalls and pratfalls, eventually coming across a vicious biker gang headed by an over-the-top Ray Liotta. Film might have played better with a darker edge; we know exactly where this is headed, and never believe anything truly bad could happen. Liotta is effectively menacing as the leader of the Del Fuegos, but the tension between the gang and our heroes that envelopes the second half of the film is mostly deflated. Comedy is dulled throughout; occasionally amusing, never laugh-out-loud funny. Cast still has plenty of charm, however, even in a middling effort like this one. Peter Fonda shows up late for a half-hearted cameo. Ultimately unmemorable.

***

Epic Movie
Rating:
Written and Directed by Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer. Starring Kal Penn, Adam Campbell, Jayma Mays, Faune A. Chambers, Jennifer Coolidge, Crispin Glover, Tony Cox, Héctor Jiménez, Darrell Hammond, Carmen Electra, Fred Willard, David Carradine, Kevin McDonald, Katt Williams, Roscoe Lee Browne.
Showtimes
IMDb link

Unwatchable mess follows in the footsteps of the Scary Movie series, Not Another Teen Movie, Date Movie, etc., to bring us a limp, lame, completely unfunny send up of ‘epic’ movies. That is, if your idea of an epic movie is Nacho Libre or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. But it’s mostly a tired walkthrough of The Chronicles of Narnia, devoid of laughs. Pic can’t even replicate the success of a 3-minute Saturday Night Live skit, even though it desperately tries to emulate music videos by The Lonely Island with numerous song-and-dance cutaways. Incompetent on every level: badly shot, acted, and directed, poorly and cheaply produced. Jayma Mays, in particular, is hung out to dry by the directors, with reaction shot after reaction shot of the same damn reaction; it’s as if a wax figure were instructed to mug for the camera. Entirely undeserving of the 2% ‘Fresh’ rating it has on Rotten Tomatoes, which is far too high. Avoid.

AND: Also opening is Michael Hegner and Karsten Kiilerich’s The Ugly Duckling and Me! (showtimes | IMDb), a Danish animated film based on a Hans Christian Anderson fairytale. Film is screening in a Czech-dubbed version.


Jason Pirodsky

Hailing from Syracuse, New York, Jason Pirodsky made his way to Prague via Miami and has stuck around, for better and worse, since 2004. A member of the Online Film Critics Society (www.ofcs.org), some of his favorite movies include O Lucky Man!, El Topo, Berlin Alexanderplatz, and Hellzapoppin'. Follow him on Twitter for some (slightly) more concise reviews.

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