Solid period drama from South Korea from director Choo Chang-Min that deals with a political intrigue in which an actor is brought in to take the place of a national leader at a time of crisis. There are echoes of the 1993 comedy-drama Dave with Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver. Set in the 17th century, Masquerade is a costume drama with an intelligent take on the politics of court intrigue. It is competently acted and directed, and features up-and-coming Korean talent Lee Byung-hun, whom western audiences might already have seen in the G.I. Joe franchise. While far from original, Masquerade is good looking and well-crafted entertainment.
Big-budget, big stars, big creativity, Oblivion seems to have it all. It also has Tom Cruise as the star, playing a veteran technician of a post-apocalyptic Earth in which he is part of a maintenance crew clearing up after a mass evacuation from the planet brought about by a devastating conflict with aliens. On his final mission, he discovers things that challenge everything he believes about his world. It helps, in cinematic terms, that this discovery comes in the very shapely shape of Olga Kurylenko. Supporting roles are taken by the always dependable Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo. The film is written and directed by Joseph Kosinski, who made his debut with the glitzy sci-fi spectacular Tron: Legacy, but Oblivion seems to have considerably higher intellectual ambitions.
A Chorus of Angels
Based on a short story by Kanae Minato, author of the hugely successful novel of Confessions, and directed by Junji Sakamoto, A Chorus of Angels is the story of a librarian on the outskirts of Tokyo who reminisces about her days as an elementary school teacher when she taught students on two remote islands off the coast of Hokkaido. The remote setting provides a gorgeous background for a melodramatic tale of teacher-student relations. Well-known stars in a tightly structured film that was nominated in 12 categories in the Awards of the Japanese Academy.
Ferzan Ozpetek has established himself as a major figure on the indie gay cinema circuit, following his debut with Steam: The Turkish Bath in 1997. With Magnifica Presenza, he is moving to crossover into the mainstream. There is plenty of camp in this tale of a young man who ends up sharing an apartment with eight ghosts (who include veteran Italian actors Margherita Buy, Beppe Fiorello and Vittoria Puccini), who only he can see, but who do not know that they are dead. The ghosts are from the early 1940s, and there is a minor theme that touches on the issue of Fascist atrocities, but the film remains resolutely lightweight, and these touches of history yield little more than some cheap sentimentality.
A film by veteran director Claude Miller starring Audrey Tautou. The story about a unhappily married woman who struggles to break free of the stultifying social expectations of her middle class community. It is beautiful to look at but does not generate much heat. The film is adapted from a novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Francois Mauriac. Miller, who has a great reputation for adapting literary classics, has, in this case, managed to suck most of the power out of the novel, and leaves the psychological motivations of the principal characters enigmatic for anyone not already familiar with the book.