Veronica Mars

Movie Review #729

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Directed by Rob Thomas. Screenplay by Rob Thomas & Diane Ruggiero. (Story: Rob Thomas. Characters: Rob Thomas.) Produced by Dan Etheridge, Danielle Stokdyk, and Rob Thomas, for Spondoolie Productions and Rob Thomas Productions, presented by Warner Bros. Digital. Starring Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Chris Lowell, Percy Daggs III, Tina Majorino, Krysten Ritter, Enrico Colantoni, Andrea Estella, Ken Marino, Francis Capra, Ryan Hansen, Daran Norris, Max Greenfield, Jerry O’Connell, Duane Daniels, Amanda Noret, Christine Lakin, and Lisa Thornhill. Credited cameo: Jamie Lee Curtis. Uncredited cameo: James Franco. Premiered at South by Southwest Film Festival on March 8, 2014. Special screenings in Mexico City, Stockholm, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney on March 13 and 14, 2014. Distributed by Warner Bros. and Warner Bros. Digital Distribution in wide release on March 14, 2014. Rated PG-13: sexuality including references, drug content, violence and some strong language. Runs 107 minutes.

Cinemaniac Reviews two and a half stars

Veronica Mars lives in the fictional town of Neptune, California.  She claims it’s not just a place where movie stars go and hang out, but then again, her colleagues exchange stories about Brad Pitt, and she can contact James Franco pretty easily.  Anyway, she’s retired from her life as a sleuth for a whole nine years.  This matches the seven years that separate the third season of the neo-noir TV series Veronica Mars from the film adaptation/followup of the same name.

All I really know of the story is what Kristen Bell and company presented in this year’s version.  I know that the three seasons of TV’s Veronica Mars (2004-2007) featured the titular heroine as a teenage sleuth, and I know that Veronica’s father became a private investigator after he lost his job as the sheriff in the beginning of the series.  I also know that Veronica herself is a private eye, and that she began by helping out her father on his private investigations.  But I don’t really “get it.”  I don’t understand half of the back story in the movie, because the script chooses to give brief, shallow explanations of what happened throughout the course of the TV series. “Veronica Mars” is for fans of the character, and maybe only those fans. Those who hold little familiarity with the series will find the setup rather confusing.

Though the characters are rather interesting, and interesting enough to make me curious about the original series. The story, as well, possesses quite some intrigue. This is a neo-noir, but it’s an unusual one with a genuinely quirky screenplay. The search for the man or woman who murdered a certain celebrity (who Veronica knows from high school) is told with style and charisma from director Rob Thomas, who also co-writes, produces, and created the TV series. Editing and cinematography are worth their mention, too; they’re just about top-notch.

If only that story was told more pointedly, this would be a much more gripping movie. “Veronica Mars” suffers from movie ADHD, and eventually, it’s created enough subplots that it’s not longer a movie; it’s just a reincarnated season of the TV show, minimized to two hours. I’m getting the sense that the TV series was a cult phenomenon in its time, and that this movie version is the final execution of a plan held since its cancellation: to bring back Veronica’s character. Apparently that was basically all they wanted in this movie. Even with great performances from Kristen Bell and Krysten Ritter, plus everything else I’ve commended the film for, the newfangled, 2014 “Veronica Mars” feels like less than enough.

VERONICA MARS IS IN THEATERS. IT IS ALSO AVAILABLE THROUGH VIDEO ON DEMAND SERVICES.

All Quiet on the Western Front

Movie Review #728

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Editor’s note: Technically, this is a TV movie I’m reviewing, which is against the rules I know. But since I had to submit the following movie review anyway to my history teacher (in whose class I watched the movie), I figured I may as well let the rest of you read it, as well. Plus, it got a limited release in a few European countries, so I guess it kind of qualifies…

Directed by Delbert Mann. Screenplay by Paul Monash. (Novel: Erich Maria Remarque.) Produced by Norman Rosemont for Norman Rosemont Productions, in association with Marble Arch Productions and ITC Entertainment Group. Starring Richard Thomas, Ernest Borgine, Donald Pleasence, Ian Holm, Dai Bradley, George Winter, Mark Drewry, Colin Mayes, Ewan Stewart, and Drahomira Fialkova. Distributed by CBS in the USA on November 14, 1979. Not Rated. Runs 150 minutes. Alternate versions run 123 minutes and 131 minutes.

Cinemaniac Reviews two stars

The 1930 adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s revered novel All Quiet on the Western Front has long been considered a classic in its own right. It’s been considered one of the sound era’s earliest and sturdiest paragons of a motion picture. Many, for sure, would go as far as to call the film one of the founding fathers of the war genre, and to top all of that off, it won the third-ever Academy Award for Best Picture. The film had many films to stand above in its time, as filmmakers and moviegoers were still in love with World War One movies for a whole two decades after the Great War had ended. 1930′s rendition of “All Quiet on the Western Front”, therefore, follows a cinematic trend, but it is considered the absolute and unarguable best of this trend.

But this isn’t the version of the story that I’m reviewing. I am reviewing the 1979 remake, the second adaptation of Remarque’s novel, and a complete schlock. It is crucial that one remembers not to confuse the adaptations. I have yet to see the original rendition of the story, or to read the novel, but I can only imagine that, had he been alive to watch it, Remarque would have gouged his eyes out.

“All Quiet on the Western Front” was released three months after “Apocalypse Now”, which to this day remains a far better war movie. Much unlike that classic, “All Quiet on the Western Front” is as cheesy as a grilled cheese sandwich. Speaking of grilled cheese sandwiches, I’m dying to have one, and I’d rather discuss grilled cheese sandwiches than discuss this dragging, uneventful snoozer. I mean, don’t we all love a grilled cheese sandwich now and then? It’s a mighty fine culinary joy.

But I digress. There’s no calling “All Quiet on the Western Front” a mighty fine cinematic joy (and in fact, it’s utterly joyless), but it is indeed possible to look at the film as a work of art. Should one look at it for its magnificent ability to produce poor-quality acting, then it’s a wonder to behold, because even the best of the best appear here. Donald Pleasence, a year before the fact, delivered a stellar performance as the detective in “Halloween”. Now he’s the target of our laughter. And Ernest Borgnine established his career with endlessly acclaimed war movies (“From Here to Eternity”, “The Dirty Dozen”). He always seems to play the one guy we listen to and connect with. Not that he’s at his absolute worst here, but watching him as a mentoring figure to the protagonist in “All Quiet on the Western Front”, it’s quite difficult to take him seriously.

“All Quiet on the Western Front” is ambitious in its story, but that’s given a cliché screenplay and a director with absolutely no vision of the project. Come on now, these hospital scenes got so rowdy, they reminded me of “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”! Could the Delbert Mann listed as the film’s director even possibly be the same Delbert Mann who earned an Oscar for his directorial debut, 1955′s “Marty”? Anything that should be emotionally effective often comes off as laughable. The movie does have its moments, the strongest of which depicts euthanizing a horse. Scenes like these let us see the horrors of war through the characters’ reactions. But for the most part, “All Quiet on the Western Front” is a hopeless movie. It’s clearly positioned as an anti-war movie, and “war is hell” does come through here and there. More often than that, though, it’s “war is boring as hell.”

Attention!

Cinemaniac Reviews will have a new posting schedule, effective immediately. Until further notice, there will be only three reviews every week: a Monday review, a Thursday review, and a Saturday review.

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT IS AVAILABLE ON DVD AND VHS.

The Wizard of Oz

Movie Review #727

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Directed by Victor Fleming. Uncredited directors: George Cukor, Mervyn LeRoy, Norman Taurog, and King Vidor (director: Kansas scenes). Screenplay by Noel Langley & Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf. (Adaptation: Noel Langley. From the book by L. Frank Baum.) Uncredited writers: Arthur Freed, William H. Cannon, E.Y. Harburg. Uncredited contributing writers: Irving Brecher, Herbert Fields, Samuel Hoffenstein, John Lee Mahin, Herman J. Mankiewicz, Jack Mintz, Ogden Nash, Robert Pirosh, George Seaton, Sid Silvers. Uncredited additional dialogue: Jack Haley, Bert Lahr. Produced by Mervyn LeRoy, presented by MGM, produced by Loew’s Incorporated. Starring Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, Charley Grapewin, Pat Walshe, Clara Blandick, Toto, and the Singer Midgets (also credited as The Munchkins). Premiered in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin on August 12, 1939. Distributed by Metro Goldwyn Mayer in wide release on August 25, 1939. Re-releases: April, 1949 (limited); June, 1949; June 17, 1955; November 6, 1998 (re-mastered version); September 20, 2013 (limited, 3-D version). Rated PG: some scary moments. Runs 102 minutes.

Cinemaniac Reviews three and a half stars

I’ve been reading a lot on the history of film, and as you might guess, “The Wizard of Oz” is a staple to this subject. This wasn’t the first movie musical (in fact, movie musicals were a huge trend all throughout the 1930′s), but it was the first movie that dared to go into a completely new realm of special effects, and it came around when children’s movies were only in bloom. So it’s not surprising that the production was difficult. What’s surprising is how difficult everything turned out to be. Looking at a small portion of it, there were five directors. One is credited, and that’s Victor Fleming, but George Cukor, Mervyn LeRoy, Norman Taurog, and King Vidor also helmed the project. Remarkably, the film coheses of L. Frank Baum’s timeless story. In fact, an extra flow of beauty swarms in when transitioning from Vidor’s Kansas scenes, into the fantastical Munchkinland.

Although the movie was universally spat upon in its initial release, “Oz” has become one of the most belovèd films by all ages. If you haven’t seen it by now, my review will not be the one to convince you. Can you claim to have a childhood? An adulthood? I’m not saying the movie’s the greatest movie ever made, but it’s certainly a must. It’s a matter of momentary mistakes that keeps me from hailing the movie as perfect. What makes it a classic is the fact that, 75 years after its release, it’s still one of the twenty, if not the ten most cinematically, historically, and culturally important movies there ever was.

And importance doesn’t always imply entertainment for a film as old as seventy-five years, but that is undisputedly the case here. The screenplay, written by almost twenty individuals, can be most accurately assessed as wonderful. Among its most enthusiastic deliverers stand Judy Garland as Dorothy, Terry as Toto, Frank Morgan as the titular fellow, and most especially Margaret Hamilton as Miss Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West. As for the friends Garland meets on her way to see the Wizard of Oz, they’re debatably the three most crucial features to her journey, the story a westernized individual knows as well as his or her own date of birth. They’re the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion, portrayed respectively by Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, and Bert Lahr. I’ll note the first two for their enthusiasm, but as far as Lahr, the enthusiasm goes disturbingly over the top. Over time, though, some things just manage to lose what initially made them great, and that might explain why Lahr’s performance seems so awful nowadays. It’s a wonder the entire rest of “Oz” stayed intact over seven and a half decades.

Tomorrow’s Review

All Quiet on the Western Front

THE WIZARD OF OZ IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY, DVD, VHS, AND LASERDISC.

Need for Speed

Movie Review #726

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Directed by Scott Waugh. Screenplay by George Gatins. (Story: George Gatins & John Gatins.) Produced by John Gatins, Patrick O’Brien, and Mark Sourian for Electronic Arts and Bandito Brothers, presented by DreamWorks Pictures and Reliance Entertainment. Starring Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, and Imogen Poots. Uncredited cameo: Mary Ellen Itson. Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and Touchstone Pictures in wide release on March 14, 2014. Rated PG-13: sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language. Runs 130 minutes.

Cinemaniac Reviews one star

Apparently Aaron Paul isn’t quite done breaking bad. He’s done with the hit AMC series, and now he’s broken bad as the starring actor in “Need for Speed”. What I mean by this is “Need for Speed” is bad. It’s downright and outrageously bad. It’s awful. Terrible. Insultingly, childishly written, and I bet you all a million–no, make that a billion dollars that a nine-year-old wrote the screenplay. Even if you discount the eye-roller scenes where a co-racer strips nude in his office building just to ensure he’s lost his job for good, or when Paul and his girlfriend-to-be are pretty much fighting to the death over whose eyes are bluer, the movie is juvenile, formulaic, and excruciating to watch.

“Need for Speed” is one of those movies that has two purposes: to show off those cars and to show off them women. It’s rather jaw-dropping that it actually fails in both these aspects. I mean, come on, failing under that sort of ambition is akin to a couch potato aiming to take a walk halfway down the street and back, and consequentially not being able to get off the couch. The “Are you kidding me?” reaction is pretty much the same here. The cars, first and foremost, are CGI. C. G. I. Computer generated imagery. Yeah, um, okay…see, I kind of thought I was going to the movies and watch some street racing, you know, as in actual, realistic-looking motor vehicles, in competition to see which one can go fastest. It’s even worse that when these guys are going 234 mph, it hardly looks like 117. When they’re going 53, it looks suspiciously like 106. And all this is muddled by dizzying camerawork, which is so bad that I almost doubt it was meant to excite.

Then there’s the women. Or, woman. There’s only one woman in the whole movie that had a speaking role, anyway, which is entirely sexist. She’s the leading woman, thank god, but she can’t act at all. Clearly, though, it’s more about beauty than talent for director Scott Waugh. Which makes me wonder, why didn’t he just cast a model?

Speaking of the dying female race that exists in the movie, how is it that this woman has absolutely no idea what the hell Paul could mean by “900 horsepower,” but she can identify the engine in automobile jargon that I completely fail to understand? That’s pretty sad character development, but you know, there isn’t a single character in “Need for Speed” who is remotely compelling. Therefore it’s a pretty boring more-than-two hours, and dear mother of god, do I feel sorry for Aaron Paul, who gives the one half-decent performance in sight.

I’d say that only the feat of a genius could explain why I didn’t totally tune this movie out, but then again, writer George Gatins and Scott Waugh are not geniuses. As their abominable execution of “Need for Speed” has made clear, they’re idiots. (And I intend no offense unto them.) The best of what this schlock offers is questions for the viewer to answer, and I do have several questions about the movie. First of all, how can a movie with such awesome sound mixing be awful, to the point at which we don’t really care how good the sound mixing is? Why does this screenwriter feel the need…the need for stupid, stupid, stupid claps of dialogue (i.e. “I’m here to make peace…and money”)? Why do they think they can remake “Bullitt” and take a video game as source material? Have they even seen “Bullitt”, let alone heard of it? I mean, they are making a car movie. The least they could do is watch a great movie with the greatest car chase ever produced. And who performed those covers of “Back in the Saddle” and “All Along the Watchtower”? ‘Cause whoever they are, they suck. Do we really need product placement in a movie this loathsome? Does a bear [BLEEP] in the woods? Why do movies insist on wasting valuable 3-D technology on showing us trash bags flying way the hell up in the air toward the camera, rather than giving us some impressive shots of, I don’t know, that Ford Mustang? Why was this aspect so obvious when I watched “Need for Speed” in 2-D?

And why did I watch it in 2-D? Why did I put myself through “Need for Speed” at all? The movie has very little to offer in terms of, well, a movie. It’s a video game, except the controller, much alike our interest, is disconnected.

Tomorrow’s Review

TBD

NEED FOR SPEED IS IN THEATERS.

The Bodyguard

Movie Review #725

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Directed by Mick Jackson. Written by Lawrence Kasdan. Produced by Kevin Costner, Lawrence Kasdan, and Jim Wilson for Kasdan Pictures, Tig Productions, and Warner Bros. Starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. Cameo: Debbie Reynolds. Distributed by Warner Bros. in wide release on November 25, 1992. Rated R: language. Runs 129 minutes.

Cinemaniac Reviews two and a half stars

“I Will Always Love You” is at the heart of this movie. It’s first performed by John Doe (the stage name of John Duchac), while Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston are seen discussing it. Whitney’s character refers to it as a “cowboy song” and points out the melancholia in the lyrics. Something written for her character to be an interesting analysis, but I can’t quite call it an agreeable one. As you might guess, the song is also performed at the very close of the film, by Whitney herself. And that finale feels so unforgettably powerful, but only for one reason. It’s not really the scene itself that has any power. It’s just that song. Whitney’s earth-shattering voice makes a better movie out of “The Bodyguard”, and while it’s all a pretty likable flick, it’s hard not to feel that a song sung with such passion and conviction, not to mention a cover version that vastly exceeds the original artist’s recording, deserved a more poignant movie.

“The Bodyguard” had so much room for potential, but in all, it really isn’t a bad movie. It’s utter trash, which is why it’s so much fun to watch. And again, it’s nothing special at all without Whitney’s music. A good rule of thumb is, if you don’t really like the soundtrack (because there isn’t a human being that creepeth upon the land who hath not heard it yet), then don’t watch the movie. Your enjoyment of R&B music is pretty much what weighs the film as trash or treasure. The story plays out like a two-hour special edition episode of a television crime procedural. We learn that the victim is Rachel Marron (Whitney) and her bodyguard is Frank Farmer (Kevin Costner). Marron famous, to put it in simplest terms. Farmer is apparently great at the job, since he worked as a Secret Service agent for a number of years, though he made his sudden retirement and went to live in the mountains after Reagan was shot. Farmer wasn’t there, he was just afraid his reputation would be ruined. Anyway, Marron isn’t told as immediately as she wishes, but she’s being stalked by one of her fans. So “The Bodyguard” is mostly about that. It’s also about Marron’s inability to to adequately respect the bodyguard without having sex with him. It makes for a really entertaining but eventually really cheesy story, especially when you know from the moment they look at each other that they’re going to fall in love.

The execution of the premise is with limited fuel. By the subplot, when Frank and Rachel travel to the mountains, I began to lose interest in the film. Fortunately it picks up by the end, but this is pretty surprising considering how much fun I was having at any moment prior. The character development is rather amusing. Frank does so much to protect Rachel, and yet he’s so assertive and defensive of himself, insisting he only do what’s in his job description. Just help the poor woman out, will ya? Or don’t, and deliver a completely hilarious line like, “I’m here to keep you alive, not help you shop.” The script fails even when trying to deliver the “movie within a movie” technique. Of all movies, Whitney and Costner go and see “Seven Samurai” on their first date. Yes, the 1950′s, black-and-white, Japanese samurai epic that exceeds three hours. I mean, I liked the movie, and apparently so did Whitney’s character, but to think that that was Costner’s character’s sixty-second time seeing the movie!? No offense to Akira Kurosawa, but I’d be sick of the film before I’d seen it seven times!

Kevin Costner might be the only one who suffers from the screenplay. His performance is just so good! Then again, the way he takes his role so seriously makes every “whoops” in Lawrence Kasdan’s (“The Empire Strikes Back”, “Return of the Jedi”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) script stand out even more. Whitney’s character just downright confuses me, and it has nothing to do with her delivery, aside from the fact that she just isn’t convincing in the role of an Oscar winner. But where the logic is most lacking in her character is that I can’t imagine any celebrity has such vast amounts of time on his or her hands, especially if they’re singing on tour. “The Bodyguard” is one of the paramount definitions of the word “cheesy.” Think of the Tejano pop star Selena having James Bond protecting her every second of the day. That’s a pretty accurate image of what you’d find in this flick.

Tomorrow’s Review

Need for Speed

THE BODYGUARD IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY, DVD, VHS, AND LASERDISC.

Clerks.

Movie Review #724

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Directed by Kevin Smith. Written by Kevin Smith. Produced by Scott Mosier and Kevin Smith for Miramax Films, presented by View Askew Productions. Starring Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Lisa Spoonauer, Jason Mewes, and Kevin Smith. Premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January 1994. Distributed by Miramax Films, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, New Vision Films, and UPLINK Company in limited release on October 19, 1994. Rated R on appeal: extensive use of extremely explicit sex-related dialogue. Runs 92 minutes. Alternate versions run 87 minutes and 102 minutes.

Cinemaniac Reviews three and a half stars

There’s a thing I really love about movies, more than just about anything, and that’s dialogue. Come on, admit it: when a movie is well-written, it’s a really good movie. Am I right or am I right? “Clerks.” succeeds immensely thanks to Kevin Smith’s dialogue. The movie’s filled with it, and seriously, the man’s a wordsmith. Everything from the VHS order scene to the Return of the Jedi debate to the very last, surprisingly philosophical scene is pure gold. Smith is technically an amateur, and I guess it shows in how silly this movie really is. But essentially, he’s representing the zeitgeist of the ’90s youth culture with every move he makes.

“Clerks.” was shot on a very modest budget of $27,575. The black and white you see was pretty much forced, but Kevin Smith and the gang make their way around this by delivering conversation as melodrama. It’s in the costume of a fifties movie, get it? It’s surprisingly how effectively the pack pulls this off, because you don’t need to look very closely to figure out that this isn’t a fifties movie. It’s more nineties than any other low-budget nineties movie, with its shaky camera, punk rock soundtrack, and foul mouthed characters.

Everything here is just so hard not to laugh at. (Or laugh with. I’m really not sure which one applies, and it may as well be both.) Considering the plot, the story has more cinematic value than it really deserves. All this really is is a sketch comedy, which, as far as I’m concerned, is the same thing as a 90-minute sitcom. It’s a day in the life film illustrating the misadventures of a convenience store clerk, and at about the midway point, the lack of plot begins to grow obvious. But by the end, the segments seen to tie together in a clean knot. At this point, the film gives its characters not on a philosophical level, demonstrating the most common pathological fear known to mankind; that a single day could be bad enough to destroy the remainder of one’s life. “Clerks.” presents a great load of humor in situations that we can all relate to. If that’s the kind of film we deal with, it’s proof that the micro-budget film isn’t always just an Ed Wood movie rotting in the jail cells of the public domain.

Tomorrow’s Review

The Bodyguard

CLERKS. IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY, DVD, AND VHS.

Movie Review #723

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Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche. Scenario, adaptation and dialogue: Abdellatif Kechiche, Ghalia Lacroix. Adapted from: the comic book “Le bleu est une couleur chaude” by Julie Maroh. Produced by Brahim Chioua, Abdellatif Kechiche, and Vincent Maraval for Quat’sous Films and Wild Bunch, in partnership with CNC. Co-production: France 2 Cinéma, Scope Pictures, Vértigo Films, and RTBF. Participation: Canal+, Ciné+, FR2, and France Télévision. Support: Eurimages, Région Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pictanovo, Le Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral de Belgique, and Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. Starring Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos. Premiered at Cannes Film Festival on May 23, 2013. Distributed by Wild Bunch and Sundance Selects (subtitled) in limited release on October 25, 2013. Also released in France and Belgium on October 9, 2013; and in Spain on October 25, 2013. Rated NC-17: explicit sexual content. Runs 179 minutes.

Cinemaniac Reviews four stars

Story is as much an epidemic for the romance epic as the black death was for Europe. This isn’t a matter of having a story, just a matter of having too much story. Look at the best of the genre. “Gone with the Wind”, “Doctor Zhivago”, “Reds”. All three being spectacular films, but they could’ve grabbed even more of our emotions if there wasn’t so much concern over the political ordeals the characters were dealing with. “Blue Is the Warmest Color” is a different and (arguably) improved romance. In all its three hours, not once is politics a concern, and why should it be when we’re engrossed in its love story?

In other words, it’s all about character, and the dynamics of the picture are that character controls story. We begin with a fifteen-year-old Adèle. She is pressured into going out with a guy in her class, but nothing really works out between the two of them. While she’s on a date with him, she notices someone else: a blue-haired, young woman who she finds rather attractive. Later on, after calling her relationship with her boyfriend off, the underage Adèle visits a bar and finds the blue-haired woman once again. They quickly fall in love, and over the years, their relationship transforms from a life-changing experience to a longlasting passion.

What makes the movie so dynamic is that it’s absolutely honest. It doesn’t embrace the struggles that Adèle faces, namely being a lesbian despite what her friends think of this. It scratches the surface with that, but once Adèle can accept what she believes over what those around her believe, this becomes a story about love. What’s best about this is that the casting is brilliant. Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux command their performances perfectly. Their relationship is entirely believable, however, due to the fact that they’re unfamiliar faces: Seydoux had almost unnoticeable roles in Midnight in Paris and Inception; Exarchopoulos makes her debut here.

“Blue Is the Warmest Color” is a modern classic. The cinematography makes for a wonder to behold, particularly during its closeups. Just take a look at that shot on the poster. That entire scene is unforgettable. The French title for “Blue Is the Warmest Color” is La vie d’Adèle – chapitres 1 et 2 (The Life of Adèle – Chapters 1 and 2). An accurate title, given that the movie can be evenly divided: chapter one being a coming-of-age film, and chapter two being a full-blown romance. The two chapters do seem to flow into one another as one film, but even if considered two separate films, any part of “Blue Is the Warmest Color” signifies a masterpiece.

POSTSCRIPT: Before you take up my recommendation, I ask (for the sake of not receiving complaints) that you keep the fast-forward button handy or be fully prepared for anything that should show up onscreen. The NC-17 is quite accurate.

Tomorrow’s Review

Clerks.

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD FROM THE CRITERION COLLECTION, AND FREE TO STREAM ON NETFLIX.

Blue Is the Warmest Color

Movie Review #723

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Warning: French review ahead, so stay tuned, anyone who doesn’t speak the language. English transliteration comes tomorrow.

Realisé par Abdellatif Kechiche. Scénario, adaptation et dialogue: Abdellatif Kechiche, Ghalia Lacroix. Adapté du bande-dessinée «Le bleu est une couleur chaude» par Julie Maroh. Produit par Brahim Chioua, Abdellatif Kechiche, et Vincent Maraval pour Quat’sous Films et Wild Bunch, en association avec CNC. Co-production: France 2 Cinéma, Scope Pictures, Vértigo Films, et RTBF. Participation: Canal+, Ciné+, FR2, et France Télévision. Support: Eurimages, Région Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pictanovo, Le Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral de Belgique, et Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. Avait pour vedettes Léa Seydoux et Adèle Exarchopoulos. Débuté en Cannes Film Festival le 23 mai 2013. Distribué par Wild Bunch et Sundance Selects (avec sous-titres) en distribution limitée le 25 octobre 2013. Aussi distribué en France et en Belgium le 9 octobre 2013; et en Espagne le 25 octobre 2013. Raté NC-17 par l’MPAA: contenu sexuel évident. Courrant par 179 minutes.

Intrigue est épidémie pour le film au grand amour aussi que la «mort noir» était pour Europe. Ceci n’est pas une affaire d’avoir une intrigue, mais c’est juste une affaire d’avoir trop de cette intrigue. Regard le crème de la crème au genre. «Gone with the Wind», «Doctor Zhivago», et «Reds». Chaque de le trois est un film spectaculeur, mais ils pouvait saisir plus que les émotions de l’audience, si il n’y avait pas beaucoup d’intrigue de la politique. «Blue Is the Warmest Color» est un film d’amour qui est très différent film d’amour. En tous les trois hours de lui, rien fait partie de l’intrigue sauf l’amour des caractères principaux. Et ça, c’est parfait, pour on s’interesse à cet amour.

En autres mots, le film, il est tout de caractère, et dans ce film, caractère contrôle l’intrigue. On commence avec l’introduction d’Adèle, qui a quinze ans. Elle est tenté de sortir avec un mec dans sa classe, mais rien vraiment marche entre lui et elle. Pendant que elle est au rendez-vous avec son petit-ami, elle remarque une autre personne: une femme jeune avec cheveux bleus qui elle trouve assez belle. Plus tard, après elle se brisait avec son petit-ami, Adèle rend visite à un bar et trouve le femme aux cheveux bleus encore. Elles rapidement se tombe en amour, et eventuellement, leur accord est devenu une passion éternel.

Le film est très dynamique parce qu’il est absolument honeste. Il n’embrasse pas les difficultés qu’Adèle passe, particulairement d’être une lesbienne malgré que ses amis croient de cela. Il gratte sur ça, mais la momente qu’Adèle peux accepter qu’elle croit plutôt que les peuples autour d’elle croient, ce film devient une histoire d’amour. Lequel est le meilleur de ça, c’est que le casting est fantastique. Adèle Exarchopoulos et Léa Seydoux dominent leurs rôles parfaitement. Leur accord est entièrement crédible, toutefois, à cause du fait qu’ils sont acteurs inconnu: Seydoux a eu presque rôles à peine visible en «Midnight in Paris» et «Inception»; Exarchopoulos fait sa début là.

«Blue Is the Warmest Color» est une classique moderne. Le cinématographie émerveille, spécifiquement pendant ses gros plans. Simplement jeter un coup d’œil ce photo de l’affiche. Cette scène entière est inoubliable. Le titre en France pour «Blue Is the Warmest Color» est La vie d’Adèle – chapitres 1 et 2. Un titre précis, donné que le film peut être divisé également: chapitre un d’être un film sur le passage à l’âge adulte, et chapitre deux d’être un film d’amour complètement. Les deux chapitres faisent s’infiltrer dans l’un l’autre comme un film; même si considéré deux films séparés, n’importe quel pièce de «Blue Is the Warmest Color» signifie un chef d’œuvre.

Tomorrow’s Review

Blue Is the Warmest Color [English-language review]

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD FROM THE CRITERION COLLECTION, AND FREE TO STREAM ON NETFLIX.

Son of God

Movie Review #722

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Directed by Christopher Spencer.  Writers: Richard Bedser, Christopher Spencer, Colin Swash, Nic Young.  Produced by Richard Bedser, Mark Burnett, and Roma Downey for Hearst Entertainment Productions and LightWorkers Media.  Starring Sebastian Knapp, Greg Hicks, Diogo Morgado, Darwin Shaw, Amber Rose Revah, Matthew Gravelle, Joe Wredden, Paul Marc Davis, Rick Bacon, Fraser Ayres, Said Bey, Adrian Schiller, Paul Brightwell, Simon Kunz, Sanaa Mouziane, Anas Chenin, Roma Downey, Daniel Percival, Noureddine Aberdine, and Idrissa Sisco.  Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation in wide release on February 28, 2014.  Rated PG-13: intense and bloody depiction of The Crucifixion, and for some sequences of violence.  Runs 138 minutes.

“Son of God” is director Christopher Spencer’s way overblown attempt to make a Biblical epic.  The paradox here is that it’s so exaggerated that we can see why the Ghost of Cecil B. DeMille might wish to rise from the grave to take the reins on this project, but its exaggeration is so pitiful that we can also imagine that DeMille might wish to cometh anew simply to empty his bowels upon the script.  Let me give you an example.  There’s no doubt that this director wants to cover several years.  I mean, yeah, that’s from the fact that he’s trying to make an epic, but look at the beginning of the movie.  We get such short snippets of Noah, Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, Saul, whoever, that the first five minutes just seems like a trailer for History’s miniseries The Bible.  I didn’t watch The Bible when its ten episodes were on television, but from all the rave that one got, I’m so surprised to see how poorly its apparent followup, “Son of God” , turned out.

Am I mincing words?  Apologies, I’ll be more direct here.  “Son of God” is a very preachy Sunday School lesson.  And it’s more of that than it is a movie.  Not so surprisingly, this feels more like a TV movie.  Way to follow up The Bible miniseries, but come on, a theatrical release?  It’s got poor marketing, among a lot else that’s equally poor.  I guess there is a plus.  If you’re one of those people who reads books and then sees the movie right after, then ends the world over the fact that the movie wasn’t faithful enough, this two-and-a-half hour feature is pretty darn faithful to the Books of the Gospels.

I wouldn’t advocate calling “Son of God” a terrible movie so readily as I would support calling it an amusingly bad movie.  All right, it is terrible, but hey, I was entertained.  How can one not be entertained by a movie that earns more laughs than many modern comedies?  Just watch Jesus and his disciples converse like they’re modern Americans, in their proper Australian/British accents that we stereotypically associate with movies that want to be, uh, legendary-like.  Every “yep,” “doin’,” “goin’,” “ya,” and the pronunciation of “brother” like “bruthah”–it’s all terrifically funny.  (I just kinda wished they’d gone into “oi” and “mate.”  I’d be clapping and jubilantly choking on my popcorn.)

It’s not just the script or the director’s choice not to direct the actors.  The acting had me laughing pretty hard, though I have to admit, I was kind of saddened that the worst actor was saved for the beginning: a Magi.  Or a wiseman, but surely not in the performing field.  I’ll give Amber Rose Revah a hand for her half-decent performance as Mary Magdelene.  She looks like Sandra Bullock, and she’s not just a lookalike.  She’s basically Sandra Bullock minus the Oscar win.

Enough fun and games, though.  The casting choices are rather confusing.  There’s one disciple who we can tell apart from the rest of the bunch, and that’s because he’s bald.  Everyone else looks the same.  The story is narrated by Peter, but I had to really think back to the beginning to place which one was him.  They’re all just roundheaded men with curly hair and large beards.  It wasn’t until Judas killed himself (which, in this rendition, seems pretty sudden and unexplainable) that I realized which of these guys was Judas.

Jesus is identifiable though.  He’s the one who appears and draws up a thought like, “Jesus, trim your hair!  You look like you’re Jared Leto.”  It’s safe to say that if he was, we’d have a good performance.  The depiction of Jesus is not as a man who we want to follow, and again, Peter narrates this story, so that’s rather odd.  What makes it odder is that he’s, in fact, depicted as a pompous asshole.  Yeah, it’s a pretty unconvincing role Jesus has.

Maybe I shouldn’t settle with Peter narrates “Son of God” .  He details the whole movie.  As in, it’s not about Jesus, so much as it is about Peter’s yearning to be like Jesus.  Maybe a better title is Guy Who Wanted to Be Son of God.  The way Darwin Shaw acts out these aspirations are rather amusing.  It’s like watching a little kid try and become Superman, particularly at the end when Peter tries to reenact the Last Supper.  Hey wait, isn’t reenacting the Last Supper sacrilege?  How come Peter lived?

Not everything is terrible about “Son of God” .  A great deal of it is, but that’s only leading up to the finale.  Even if it’s not enough of the movie to make it all that memorable, “Son of God” improves drastically in acting, camerawork, and direction near the end.  The one absolutely cinematic sequence in the whole thing is when the depiction of Jesus’s 40 lashes (we see 14) is juxtaposed with Judas’s suicide.  Yeah, this is the Crucifixion, and it’s quite a way of showing it to us.  The PG-13 “Son of God” received puzzles me so much.  This is just barely less bloody than “The Passion of the Christ”, as I remember that one.  In fact, if there’s one thing that reduces theater walkouts and saves the custodian from having to clean up vomit off the floor, it’s the camerawork.  The sequence lasts maybe twenty minutes, and we cut away only from the most bloody.  As in, just don’t show Jesus’s hands or feet when they nail him to the cross.  Come to think of it, forget what I said about not having to walk out of the theater.  “Son of God” is unintentionally funny and all that, but that’s not exactly a good thing when it’s overlong and covers religion, which is nothing if it isn’t a serious subject matter.  If I were anything but a film critic, I would have strolled right out and demanded my money back.

Tomorrow’s Review

TBD

SON OF GOD IS IN THEATERS.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Movie Review No. 721

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Directed by Lee Daniels. Written by Danny Strong. Article: “A Butler Well Served by This Election” by Wil Haygood. Produced by Lee Daniels, Cassian Elwes, Buddy Patrick, Pamela Oas Williams, and Laura Ziskin for Follow Through Productions, Salamander Pictures, Laura Ziskin Productions, Lee Daniels Entertainment, Pam Williams Productions, and Windy Hill Pictures. Starring Forest Whitaker, Michael Rainey Jr., Mariah Carey, Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Redgrave, Aml Ameen, Clarence Williams III, Oprah Winfrey, and David Oyelowo. Premiered in New York City, New York on August 5, 2013. Distributed by The Weinstein Company in wide release on August 16, 2013. Rated PG-13: some violence, disturbing images, sexual content, thematic material and smoking. Runs 132 minutes.

In the opening scenes, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” wreaks of a movie that we’d much rather call “12 Years a Slave”-lite. Then we realize, this sort of cruelty isn’t in a movie set in the 1800′s. It’s 1926! Now let’s fast-forward to 1957, when Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) was no longer a man growing up under an avalanche of powerful racists in the Jazz Age. He was now a butler for the President of the United States.

In getting to this, the movie sets up too quickly, almost unconvincingly, but even so, “The Butler” makes itself clear in delivering its message about racism. Which does seem obvious at first, but an elaboration on the subject matter doesn’t hurt, especially when the message is delivered through the right individual. At the beginning of Gaines’s career, he served the Eisenhower Administration. He retired under the Reagan Administration. That’s seven Presidents this butler worked for. He learned something valuable from each one of them, or maybe that’s just my catching eye of movie formula.

“The Butler” is a very superficial movie, but it does get to a certain spot in our hearts that finds compassion and familiarity to the issues dealt with. Certain protest scenes and a particularly disturbing KKK scene had me surprised that what I was watching was PG-13. Maybe we have faith in a small part of it, because it so reverently and honestly tells of a cultural issue we’re all aware of.

There’s no telling why none (I repeat: none) of these performers look like the figures they’re portraying, but they do so well at it. James Marsden may not look a thing at all like Kennedy, and Alan Rickman may have required a lot of makeup to appear as Reagan, but their personas fit. What I feared of “The Butler” was that it would be cheesy. As I’ve said, it’s superficial. But not cheesy. Superficial, and I’m not really sure whether I can say I’m disappointed or pleased with its outcome. As is the definition of an acceptable movie, “The Butler” met every last one of my expectations. But with a fair bit of woodshed on the project, all my expectations could have been well exceeded.

Tomorrow’s Review

Son of God

LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD.

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