Film

Review: The Taking of Pelham 123

By Gerald Aaron, July 30, 2009

After a hyper-flashy opening, director Tony Scott switches to gripping storytelling when New York subway dispatcher Walter Garber (charismatic Denzel Washington) takes on Ryder (John Travolta, entertainingly larger than life) who is holding subway passengers hostage for a $10 million ransom.

Washington and Travolta make memorable opponents, Scott creates good mounting suspense, the action sequences are exciting and James Gandolfini’s venal mayor is amusing. As remakes go (it was Walter Matthau versus Robert Shaw in 1974), it succeeds very well.

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Review: Crossing Over

By Gerald Aaron, July 30, 2009

Writer-director Wayne Kramer’s gripping film features a variety of stories interlinked by their protagonists’ involvement with the US Immigration Service.

Harrison Ford, happily playing his age after disguising it with doubles in Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, scores as immigration officer Max “Everything’s a crisis to you” Brogan, while charmless Ray Liotta is perfect as an Immigration Service executive demanding sexual favours for helping aspiring immigrant Alice Eve. A timely and thought-provoking drama.

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Review: G-Force

By Gerald Aaron, July 30, 2009

Disney delivers a splendid live-action-animation comedy thriller for children about a unit of daring guinea pigs who foil a diabolical attempt at world domination. The special effects are state of the art, the animated animals out-act the mere humans and a good, easy-to-enjoy family film is the result.

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Review: The Proposal

By Gerald Aaron, July 24, 2009

On paper, this undistinguished romcom must have seemed as lightweight as helium. On film, the predictable plot and mundane dialogue means it rarely gets off the ground.

Heartless New York publishing executive Margaret (Sandra Bullock) blackmails stressed assistant Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) into marrying her to save her from deportation to her native Canada.

The odd couple’s visit to Andrew’s family in small-town Alaska gives rise to an amiable comedy of embarrassment with an utterly unsurprising ending.

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Review: Just Another Love Story

By Gerald Aaron, July 24, 2009

Writer-director Ole Bornedal’s ironically titled crime melodrama finds happily married crime-scene photographer Jonas (Anders W Berthelsen) causing the car accident that leaves Julia (Rebecka Hemse) amnesiac and near blind, falling in love with her and posing as her fiancée — only to be plunged into danger when her presumed-dead fiancée turns up…

The compelling brew of romance, mystery and potent revelations grab and hold you right from the start.

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Review: Skin

By Gerald Aaron, July 24, 2009

A genetic throwback caused Sandra Laing to be born “black” to white parents in apartheid South Africa. While Sandra’s odyssey seems fictional, it’s a true story told with rather too much restraint by director Anthony Fabian.

Sophie Okenedo as the adult Sandra and Ella Ramangwane as the child are excellent; Sam Neill and Alice Krige do well as the parents.

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Review: Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince

By Jonathan Foreman, July 16, 2009

Today’s children and teenagers have greater powers of concentration than is generally realised. How else can you explain the extraordinary success of the Harry Potter phenomenon, especially the films? After all, the screen adaptations are rather slow-moving and talky, especially compared to other blockbusters. Indeed, apart from the special effects, it is hard to believe that, compared to the Transformers franchise, the Potter films and products are of the same era.

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Review: Bruno

By Jonathan Foreman, July 9, 2009

As anyone knows who has seen Borat or Da Ali G Show, there is no denying the chutzpah or talent of Sacha Baron Cohen.

The Ali G character that the comedian and satirist created for television deftly skewered two different kinds of pretension — that of white middle-class kids adopting an asinine ghetto persona, and that of establishment adults so desperate to be cool with “yoof” culture that they co-operated in their own humiliation by interview.

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Review: Public Enemies

By Jonathan Foreman, July 2, 2009

Hollywood does not make films about depression-era gangsters very often. It is already two decades since De Palma’s Untouchables and Barry Levinson’s Bugsy. Arguably there are good reasons for this.

For one thing, the modern classics of the genre are so familiar that any new film featuring fedora hats, tommy guns and rounded cars with running boards is likely to feel ersatz and steeped in cliché. It may be that the period gangster film has become like the Western, a form that is all but exhausted except for the occasional “revisionist” treatment.

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Review: Katyn

By Jonathan Foreman, June 18, 2009

Andrzej Wajda’s Katyn may well be the most accomplished and most important film released this summer. It is also disturbingly flawed, not as a work of art but as a representation of a country and a moment in history.

For decades this great Polish filmmaker (Man of Iron, Ashes and Diamonds) has wanted to make a film about the terrible crime committed in the Katyn forest in the spring of 1940. Wajda’s own father Jakub was among the 22,000 Polish army officers and other notables taken away and murdered by Soviet NKVD in the forest and elsewhere in Russia.

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