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City of Ember

Before the world ended, an elite group of the world’s greatest minds collaborated to construct an underground city, intended to host humans for 200 years until earth became habitable once again.

The secret to the outside world is contained in a box left by ‘The Builders’, which was intended to be passed down from mayor to mayor until the deadline was reached. The City is powered by a massive electrical generator, but increasingly frequent power cuts signal the end of the Ember era. The current mayor, played with lazy menace by Bill Murray, has lost the box and given up on any escape plan – instead, he has turned to hoarding what is left of Ember’s food supplies for himself. A young girl finds the box and must piece together its clues with the help of a resourceful teenage boy who finds a long forgotten channel while working in the city pipe works.

Ember is only vaguely thrilling, and far too predictable, but it will work with adolescents and sci-fi geeks. Perhaps that’s all it hoped for.

Synecdoche, NY

Screenwriter of such offbeat classics as Adaptation, Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Charlie Kaufman has made his directorial debut with Synecdoche, New York, a metaphysical mind-boggler of a movie that is unlike anything before it.

It follows a sickly, emotionally hapless yet celebrated playwright trapped in a loveless marriage, who wins a grant to make a play to end all plays. He orders props to be erected that resemble his own world and casts lookalikes to play the people in his life to the extent that, by the end of the film, the acted world and the real world are hard to tell apart. So Kaufman picks at the seams of your understanding; he pulls the carpet from under your feet and leaves you sprawling, trying to find something solid to grab onto.

His technique recalls David Lynch, but where Lynch avoided any semblance of decipherable emotion, Kaufmann’s use of the bizarre is funnier, gentler, warmer and more welcoming. For the patient, this is a mesmeric masterpiece, a film that, though acute and neurotic introspection, addresses love and loneliness with a rare honesty and insight.

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

The film tells the story of Sidney Young, a cynical journalist from London who lands a job at a glossy New York magazine and documents his many and various tribulations. You can’t help thinking what Toby Young, who wrote the book, thought of the film. For where he attacked the celeb-crazed magazine industry, the film gives it a light slap on the wrist.

Where the book was full of sharp witticisms and X-rated insights into the sordid world Young inhabited, the film relies on easy, often slapstick gags. Still, Pegg is as loveable a jerk as you could hope to get, and Danny Huston is perfect as a sleazebag; whether Kirsten Dunst wins you over or annoys you to tears will depend largely on whether you’ve seen Elizabethtown or Spiderman. And how you feel about the film as a whole will depend on what you decide it is that your watching – People is not the droll, smart film it wants to be, but as a run-of-the mill romantic comedy it ticks enough boxes.

Film
Arthur Christopher

   
 
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