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Land of Plenty
Drama/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/123mins
Starring: Michelle Williams, John Diehl, Shaun Toub
Director: Wim Wenders
Emotion Pictures


Wim Wenders has produced a brave attempt to analyse post 9/11 America. Paranoia reason jostle for dominance. Paul (John Diehl) is an Iraq war veteran distrustful of his own government who has decided to hunt down terrorists himself — by driving around downtown LA in a van muttering into a dictaphone. On the other hand Lana (Michelle Williams), a nice girl from a nice family has also decided to do her bit for the nation by working with the homeless. The two remain apart until the mysterious death of a Middle Eastern man brings them together.

Maria Full of Grace
Drama/Columbia, US/Spanish, English (Japanese subtitles)/101mins
Starring: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Yenny Paola Vega, Giulied Lopez
Director: Joshua Marston
Fine Line Features


Columbian lass Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno) is 17, has a menial job, and finds she is pregnant. Her boyfriend dumps her and she sets off to Bogota to see what she can do. Some men there tell her what she can do is swallow some packets of drugs and fly to New York. She knows this is a mug’s game, but with two pals Bianca (Yenny Paola Vega) and Lucy (Giulied Lopez) she goes along with the scheme anyway. Once in New York Lucy dies of an accidental overdose and things go from bad to worse.

Stealth
Action/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/121mins
Starring: Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx
Director: Rob Cohen
Columbia Pictures


Ludicrous mish mash of every cliché-ridden fighter pilot and techno-paranoia flick ever made. A team of three elite pilots is given an extra wingman: an unmanned superjet that has a huge computer brain of its own. On a mission to blow up terrorists in Rangoon (why Rangoon?) the superjet gets hit by lightning and develops a sudden interest in pop music. This is only the beginning of its strangeness and soon the plucky human trio is scattered around Asia in various dire straits.

The Pacifier
Comedy/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/90mins
Starring: Vin Diesel, Brittany Snow, Max Thierot
Director: Adam Shankman
Walt Disney Films


Macho action man gets landed with minding the kids — what an original premise for a film! This time the action man is Shane Wolfe (Vin Diesel) who is a Navy SEAL. He is taken off his usual duties of blowing things up and shooting things to look after the kids of a top boffin who’s thoroughly occupied in a Swiss bank vault guessing passwords to access something or other that is terribly important for national security. Of course, macho man has to deal with the complicated kids … you know the rest.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Comedy, SF/US, UK/English (Japanese subtitles)/110mins
Starring: Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell, Mos Def
Director: Garth Jennings
Touchstone Pictures


Douglas Adams’s own adaptation of his enormously successful first novel, The Hithchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. When the Earth is demolished by the Vogons to make way for a hyperspace bypass Arthur Dent’s (Martin Freeman) pal Ford Prefect (Sam Rockwell) reveals himself to be an alien and not from Guildford at all. Ford and Arthur hitche a lift on the Vogon constructor vessel, from where they end up with Zaphod Beeblebrox, the itinerant president of the galaxy and are thrown into a whirl of improbable adventures. Funny, whimsical, satirical, all at once.

Cinderella Man
Biography/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/144 mins
Starring: Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Paul Giamatti
Director: Ron Howard
Universal Pictures


This is a true story of the world’s nicest boxer. Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe) was an up-and-coming boxer in the 1920s when his career was curtailed by an injury. Out of work and out of luck: the depression strikes and along with it poverty. Braddock keeps in some kind of shape with occasional bits of work in New York’s docks, and accidentally develops a devastating left hook. His agent Joe Gould squeezes him into a tournament as one off, where he impresses the boxing world and starts again on the path to the championship.

The Merchant of Venice
Drama/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/138mins
Starring: Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes
Director: Michael Radford
Sony Pictures


Apparently this is the first ever film adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Film makers have in the past steered away from this one because of its difficult nature in the modern world — Shylock is infested with period anti-semitism. It is a brave decision therefore to take this project on. However, Shakespeare’s Shylock is not the cardboard cut out that Marlowe’s creation in the Jew of Malta was. There is humanity and irony that transcends the stereotyping. And then there’s the acting: Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes — nuff said. A bold and erudite first screen production.

Nothing
Non-genre/Canada/English (Japanese subtitles)/90mins
Starring: David Hewlett, Andrew Miller, Gordon Pinsent
Director: Vincenzo Natali
49th Parallel Productions


Dave and Andrew are wasters. They share a flat because they can’t be bothered to get lives of their own. They never clean up and spend all their considerable time in video games and inane conversation. They aren’t very good with women. Suddenly their existence turns eventful in a very unwelcome fashion. Dave falls in love but is then accused of kissing a girl scout. Andrew is accused of embezzling money from work and someone else wants to demolish their home. Then things get weird. Eccentric comedy, slow paced but good dialogue.

The Bad News Bears
Comedy/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/111mins
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Marcia Gay Harden, Greg Kinnear
Director: Richard Linklater
Paramount


A little league baseball flick with all the sentimentality sucked out of it. Also happens to be a remake of the 1976 Walther Matthau film of the same name. Morris Butterworth (Billy Bob Thornton) is the most jaded and vulgar little league coach ever. He has been put in charge of a team made specifically of kids that can’t play the game — you behave “like Helen Keller at a piñata party”, he tells them. Interesting and well thought-out performance from Thornton making this a film not just for the kids.

Review by Chris Page


October 2005

 
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