July 28 (Bloomberg) -- “Life in a Day” opens with a shot of the moon and closes with a picture of a snail.
In between, we see people sleeping, brushing their teeth and praying. A baby giraffe is born, a cow is slaughtered and elephants frolic in a watering hole. A Korean man rides his bicycle around the world and an American woman shows off her stitches from a cancer operation. A young couple walks down the aisle in an Elvis-themed wedding and an elderly couple renew their vows to celebrate 50 years of marriage.
The 90-minute film, directed by Kevin Macdonald (“The Last King of Scotland”) and produced by Ridley Scott, was compiled from more than 80,000 YouTube videos shot in 192 countries on the same day -- July 24, 2010.
Asking amateur videophiles to chronicle their everyday lives and then turning all that footage into a compelling film proves to be problematic. For every striking scene, there are a dozen mundane ones. It’s like searching for the prize in a cereal box.
Macdonald tries to organize the documentary by assembling montages of similar activities and themes, but that quickly gets old. Other sequences include people answering broad questions such as “What do you love?” and “What do you fear?”
The answers are mostly predictable, though one young man confesses to loving his refrigerator above all else.
The film’s participants have ambitions, big and small. The globe-trotting bicyclist wants to unite the two Koreas and a sad-looking young girl yearns for meaning in her life.
Much of the movie is lighthearted or uplifting, including a segment in which a bedridden Australian man thanks the hospital staffers who took care of him following his heart operation. There is one deeply disturbing scene of a cow being shot with a stun gun before having its throat slashed.
Matthew Herbert and Harry Gregson-Williams provide the evocative soundtrack and editor Joe Walker had the thankless task of winnowing 4,500 hours of footage.
“Life in a Day,” from National Geographic Entertainment, opens tomorrow in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Rating: **
In the “The Guard,” a cynical Irish cop and an upstanding black FBI agent try to take down an international drug-smuggling ring that has infested a small town in County Galway.
The odd couple is the focus of John Michael McDonagh’s offbeat black comedy, but the movie is filled with eccentric characters and strange plot twists that hold your attention, even when the thick Irish accents are hard to understand.
Brendan Gleeson sparkles as Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a poker-faced veteran policeman who hires hookers, makes crass racial jokes and treats authority figures no better than criminals. His straight man is Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle, ever reliable), whose preppy background and urbane manner defy Boyle’s stereotypes.
Other standouts are Mark Strong as a bored mobster, Liam Cunningham as his philosophy-spouting partner and Fionnula Flanagan as Boyle’s dying mom. There’s also a lively soundtrack by Calexico, an indie rock band not known for Irish jigs.
“The Guard,” from Sony Pictures Classics, opens tomorrow in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: ***
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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