2012 log (11)

(2 Nov) Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012, Benh Zeitlin) 91
[ Some movies grab you right away. Here’s a film that had me before the title even had time to flash on screen. Something to do with the luminous, expressive cinematography, with the glorious score by Dan Romer and director Benh Zeitlin, with the little world that’s depicted, with the central character of course, a little black girl whose naive yet wise inner monologue acts as narration… It reminded me quite a bit of David Gordon Green’s debut, “George Washington”, for the way it makes the ordinary feels extraordinary, with magic and lyricism and emotion pouring out of every frame… I just fell in love with the Bathtub, a microcosm in the bayou that has to deal with poverty and illness and the constant threat of flooding, but that can also be warm and festive, with people and animals running all over the place, and water everywhere, for better or worse. This is a fairy tale of sorts, full of harshness and wonder, things that little Hushpuppy often doesn’t fully understand – her father’s erratic behavior, for one. That visions of giant pigs roaming the land punctuate the story is no more strange than that, really. It just gets to you. It’s been a while since a movie made me cry this much, in ways I can’t quite put into words. What a fantastic picture. ]

(2 Nov)  The Man with the Golden Gun (1974, Guy Hamilton) 52 
[ I’m not the biggest James Bond fan, but I find most entries in the franchise somewhat enjoyable nonetheless. There’s something soothing about how predictable these flicks are: there are all these little things that invariably are included, from the cold open to the title sequence to the Bond girls, the catchphrases and so on. Then you have all these little twists on the formula, which can be quite colorful, silly even in this case. Much of “The Man with the Golden Gun” is set in Asia (Macau, Hong Kong, Thailand…) so you’ve got a bit with sumo wrestlers and another scene at a martial arts school. There’s also the fact that the villain, a hitman played by Christopher Lee, is notorious for having a third nipple (!), plus he’s got a midget sidekick, who must have inspired Mini-Me from the “Austin Powers” movies. Finally there’s the Roger Moore of it all, a certain cheesiness that inhabits the whole thing. It hardly adds up to one of the best episodes in the series, but it’s still a rather fun watch.  ] 

(3 Nov)  Rhinestone (1984, Bob Clark) 63 
[ In this movie, charming Dolly Parton accepts a bet to transform a New York cabbie into a country singer. This leads to a lot of fun, thanks in no small part to the unlikely fact that the wannabe country singer is played by Sylvester Stallone! Parton and him make an entertaining pair, whether they’re flirting, bickering or singing. ]

(7 Nov)  The End of Time (2012, Peter Mettler)  
[ In this quasi-experimental documentary, Peter Mettler explores the nature of time, taking us on a generally captivating audiovisual journey that takes on scientific, philosophical and spiritual aspects, among other things. There are plenty of fascinating ideas thrown around, and the film itself, with its unconventional, unpredictable narrative and its deliberate, hypnotic pacing, shows that our notion of time is at best relative. ]

(8 Nov)  Lincoln (2012, Steven Spielberg) [ review ] 70  

(10 Nov) On the Town (1949, Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly) 61
[ Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin are three sailors on leave for 24 hours in New York City. During that day, they’ll do some sightseeing and partying but mostly, they’ll each hook up with a pretty girl. This leads to a lot of silliness as well as a surprising amount of horniness for a 1949 film, plus of course tons of song and dance numbers. Good times. ]

(11 Nov)  Skyfall  (2012, Sam Mendes) [ review ] 73 

(13 Nov)  The Sessions  (2012, Ben Lewin) 78 
[ “Sex and the disabled.” A subject we don’t often stop to think about, but it’s quite a doozy. Everyone has sexual impulses, but what if you’re physically unable to do anything about them? Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), whose real-life story inspired this film, was wondering about that. Almost completely paralyzed because of polio, he was still as virgin as a grown man, having never even been able to masturbate. The film shows how he comes to use the service of a sex surrogate, played by Helen Hunt. You really feel for him, and it’s somewhat humorous, sensual, and inspiring, too…  Even though unlike in most films about disabled people, the thing Mark is trying to achieve is not a conventionally noble one, he’s just horny! Which is a perfectly normal and healthy thing, of course. It’s a great, rather original subject for a movie and it’s treated with warmth, wit and sensibility by writer-director Ben Lewin. It’s also wonderfully acted by Hawkes, Hunt and the rest of the cast, notably William H. Macy as a priest O’Brien confides to. “The Sessions” should reap a bunch of Oscar nominations, which it will fully deserve. ]

(16 Nov)  Take This Waltz  (2012, Sarah Polley) 55 
[ For quite a while, it’s not really clear where this film is heading. You’ve got Michelle Williams as a young woman married to Seth Rogen, who meets a guy (Luke Kirby) during a trip, and it turns out that they live on the same street… You can sorta guess that this is going to be a story about adultery, but it sure takes its time getting going. Not to the point of being dull though, because throughout there’s enjoyment to be had from the warmth and colorfulness of the cinematography, the moody score, Michelle Williams’ presence…  So I grooved along with it until the end, which didn’t satisfy me, but that may be a personal thing. It just felt empty and pointless to me… Maybe that’s the point? In any case, I can still appreciate Sarah Polley’s talent as a filmmaker, but I wasn’t amazed like I was when I saw “Away from Her”.  ]

(23 Nov)  The Seven Year Itch  (1955, Billy Wilder) 69 
[ Often when you watch older films like this, you’re simultaneously struck by how old-fashioned they are, say in the storytelling or in the way the protagonist keeps talking to himself (which may come from the play it’s adapted from), and by the risqué little things they still got away with. Every bit of sexiness, however subtle, seems a bit wilder (Wilder!) considering that this is a 1955 movie.  “When it’s hot like this, you know what I do? I keep my undies in the icebox.” Aww, Marilyn Monroe… There’s really only one like her, so bodacious and naive and flirty… No wonder Tom Ewell’s character feels tempted to go at it with her, even though he’s happily married. Well, he’s being an idiot even letting her into his apartment while the wife’s away, of course. If he really wanted to stay faithful, he’d know better and would avoid things like that. But it makes for amusing movie situations, with a whole lotta Marilyn. ]

(29 Nov)  The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas  (1982, Colin Higgins) 67 
[ What a priceless idea: a musical revolving around a bordello in the Lone Star state. This is a great opportunity for a bunch of naughtiness and country songs, plus a very enjoyable relationship between the all-too-womanly Dolly Parton and man’s man Burt Reynolds.  ]

October / December

2012 log (10)

(2 Oct) Carnage (2011, Roman Polanski) 65
[ An adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s play “Le Dieu du carnage”, this is quite a taut piece of writing, depicting in real time the meeting between two couples, one of whose son hit the other with a stick. Now they’re all trying to be civil about it, to act like grown-ups and not quarrell like their kids… But their interaction slowly but surely slides into more antagonistic territory, as each set of parents can’t help but side with their child and blame the others in some way, which leads to a series of increasingly awkward little moments between the four of them. Since this is practically a filmed play, all set in and around a single location (one of the couples’ apartment), it was important for the actors to all be at the top of their game, and they are. You can’t do much better than Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz, right? ]

(5 Oct) The Master (2012, Paul Thomas Anderson) [ review ] 94 

(8 Oct) Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock) [ review ] 100 

(9 Oct) Holy Motors (2012, Leos Carax) 58
[ It probably doesn’t help that I went into this movie knowing that 3 or 4 of my favourite critics were calling it the best film of the year, but still: what the hell. Oh, there are many memorable moments and star Denis Lavant’s metamorphosing physicality is thoroughly captivating as his character keeps taking on different guises, but the whole thing is rather uneven and, to me anyway, it never felt like it really added up to anything. Trying to write a plot summary is beyond the point, obviously – you don’t need to know more than the fact that Lavant’s character sits in the back of a limo, being driven to a series of rendezvous and using various wigs, makeup effects and costumes to prepare for each role. I particularly enjoyed the part in which he’s a monster who abducts a model played by Eva Mendes. “Weird… So weird! He’s so weird!” Yeah, so weird… I loved the accordion “entracte” as well… And some other stuff here and there… I don’t even care that there’s no clear story or logic, at least on a superficial level. The film seems to be about the unpredictable nature of…and the randomness of… you know, chaos and whatnot? But I wish that there was more of an emotional, visceral buildup to it, a sense of it growing more and more intense one way or another. Oh well. ]

(10 Oct) In Time  (2011, Andrew Niccol) 54
[ The premise – a world in which people stop aging at 25 but then have only one more year to live unless they can earn more – is intriguing enough and early on, the film finds all kinds of thought-provoking ways to play around with it. It’s simple enough: time is already sort of a currency in our lives, and it’s clear enough that rich people tend to live longer, not to mention spend more time on holiday, than poor people…  And the fact that everyone looks 25 or under does seem to be where our society’s obsession with youth would lead if taken to the extreme. There are others of interesting ideas like that throughout “In Time”, it’s modestly well crafted and the cast – Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, etc. – is solid, but it oddly lacks urgency for a movie about people running out of time. Not that it necessarily should have been action-packed, but sci-fi flicks like “Minority Report”, “Children of Men” and this year’s “Looper” achieved a better balance between ideas and thrills. There’s also a sense that “In Time” is front-loaded – the last act is rather so-so in every way, as if writer-director Andrew Niccol didn’t really know where to go with this premise.  ]

(11 Oct) My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done  (2009, Wernerg Herzog) 73
[ “Ever since he came back from Peru he’s been strange. Well, not so much strange as… different.” Cut to a shot of a foggy mountainscape in Peru, where Herzog famously shot such films as “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” and “Fitzcarraldo” with glorious madman Klaus Kinski… And to a degree, you could put the great Michael Shannon in that category. What an intense, unsettling presence this guy can have! Especially when he’s playing a character as strange/different as the protagonist of this film, a deeply disturbed individual obsessed with his inner voice, visions of God, Greek tragedy and whatnot. The stop-and-go, flashback-littered structure is a bit iffy, but “My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done” almost always remains engrossing from scene to scene thanks to offbeat dialogue, striking cinematography and that towering performance from Shannon, plus strong supporting performances from the likes of Willem Dafoe, Chloë Sevigny, Michael Peña, Grace Zabriskie, Brad Dourif and Udo Kier. “Why is the whole world staring at me?”  ]

(12 Oct) Sharktopus (2010, Declan O’Brien) 35
[ This Roger Corman production is grade Z all the way: dumb plotting, awful dialogue, shoddy direction, terrible acting… But the actual Sharktopus – yes, a half-shark, half-octopus creature – is so ridiculous it’s awesome. Or so awesome it’s ridiculous? Either way, it makes the flick worth checking out. That and the extended cameo by Ralph Garman!. ]

(15 Oct) The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  (2012, John Madden) 56
[ At its core, this is a pleasant but rather middlebrow dramedy, most notable for its endearing ensemble of veteran British actors –  Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton. It’s elevated somewhat by the Indian setting, which is so colorful, warm, lively… But ultimately, it’s just a nice little movie, nothing less, nothing more. And that’s all right.  ]

(16 Oct) Conan the Barbarian (1982, John Milius) 91 
[   The film opens with the Nietzche quote “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”, and Crom damn it if the brutal tale which follows doesn’t make a strong case for it.  Conan goes through all kinds of hell, watching Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) and his snake cult slaughter everyone he loves, being enslaved, pitted in gladiator death matches, bred like an animal and eventually even crucified!  Conan certainly comes out of all this suffering stronger – and mad as hell!  This is a ruthless gore-soaked revenge story, but one that unfolds through high adventure, fantasy, romance and some deadpan humor.  Add great imagery, a rousing score and a great physical performance from Arnold Schwarzenegger and you got one kick ass flick.  ]

(22 Oct)    Conan the Destroyer  (1984, Richard Fleischer) 42 
[    Way cheesier and less cool than the original, notably because instead of being an epic tale of revenge, it’s just an ordinary sword and sorcery quest that happens to feature Conan.  It’s still an okay, rather action-packed piece of heroic fantasy, despite somewhat ridiculous sequences like the fights between Schwarzenegger and rubber creatures.   ]

(23 Oct)  Knight and Day (2010, James Mangold) 39 
[    James Mangold is kinda like one of those old journeyman studio filmmakers, guys who pretty much tackle every genre over the years. So far he’s explored romance (“Heavy”), cop drama (“Cop Land”), fantasy (“Kate & Leopold”), thriller (“Identity”), biopic (“Walk the Line”), Western (“3:10 to Yuma”), and in this here case, action comedy. Now, while Mangold generally does more or less solid work, I can’t say anything he’s made has knocked me on my ass. And there’s often a sense that in other hands, each of his project might have been better. Like in this case, obviously it would have helped to have a genuine action filmmaker at the helm of this “True Lies”-style flick, say, James Cameron in a best-case scenario.  That way the fights and shootouts and chases might have felt more grounded and truly thrilling instead of being over the top in a not unenjoyable but nevertheless monumentally silly way, you know? The film also tends to flatline in between set pieces, when it gets boggled in its mess of a plot. Fortunately, Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz provide much movie star wattage, but not quite enough to make up for these flaws.  ]

(24 Oct)  Play It Again, Sam  (1972, Herbert Ross) 60 
[ Back when Woody Allen had barely started directing movies, he also played in this adaptation of one of his plays. You can recognize his voice, though hardly on the level of his best work… The whole thing feels a bit staged and stuffy, what with Woody constantly talking to himself, director Herbert Ross could have kept things snappier and there’s too much (bad) slapstick for my taste. Then again, I dig the idea that the typically neurotic protagonist gets advice in old school machismo from a vision of Humphrey Bogart, there are witty lines sprinkled throughout and, even though it’s ultimately a hit-and-miss affair, the easygoing rapport between Allen and Diane Keaton makes it enjoyable enough. Kudos also for the way it sets up its twist on the “Casablanca” ending.  ]  

(25 Oct)  And Everything Is Going Fine  (2010, Steven Soderbergh ) 83 
[ In this follow-up of sorts to “Gray’s Anatomy”, which was made after Spalding Gray’s death, Soderbergh assembles a “new” monologue out of excerpts of 20 years’ worth of archival footage of live performances and interviews. The result is impressively fluid, as if it was really all the same story Gray is telling, which makes sense since his material is autobiographical – this is is the story of his life, more or less. It’s all very captivating, alternately troubling and amusing, with all kinds of insights and clever asides… There’s also a self-reflective level to it, what with storytelling being a way of imposing order to the chaos of everyday life, of fictionalizing things somewhat, one way or another. And the fact that Soderbergh is mix and matching all these little bits and pieces out of context further makes this an artificial construction, in an interesting way. ]

(26 Oct)  Cloud Atlas  (2012, Andy & Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer) [ review ] 59 

(26 Oct)  The Band Wagon  (1953, Vincente Minnelli) 64 
[ A fun backstage musical in gorgeous Technicolor, without much of a story, but with plenty of enjoyable song and dance numbers starring the great Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Jack Buchanan, Nanette Fabray and Oscar Levant. “That’s Entertainment!” ]

(28 Oct)  Date Night  (2010, Shawn Levy) 53 
[ There’s something to be said about about smoothly effective middlebrow filmmaking à la Shawn Levy’s. You watch a movie like “Date Night” and you can just about see the Screenwriting 101 gears turning. 7 minutes in, all the necessary exposition has been painlessly laid out via a series of moderately amusing beats. So okay, these are your two lead characters: a married couple with two kids, stuck in a family life routine, with seemingly no romantic fire left between them. Even when they go out on “date night”, their heart isn’t into it, it’s just another thing they do almost because they have to. That’s your setup – like I said, 7 minutes sharp and it’s done. Then boom, inciting incident: they learn that friends of them are splitting up because they’re bored with what their marriage has become, which is pretty much exactly the same situation our protagonists are in. Uh-oh. Needless to say, when they go on date night the next day, they feel like they have something to prove to themselves and each other. They can still be passionate and spontaneous, right? This leads to a series of relatively wild and unpredictable situations, that is, as wild and unpredictable as a mainstream comedy can be. This isn’t a Tarantino or Coen brothers flick, we’re still talking about a Shawn Levy movie, remember. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Not every film has to be fucked up and crazy and in your face, sometimes it’s nice to just watch an agreeable little Hollywood comedy that moves along nicely and delivers a few decent laughs. Especially when it can count on a rather awesome cast, starting with leads Steve Carell and Tina Fey, who are joined by the likes of Mark Ruffalo, Kristen Wiig, Common, Jimmi Simpson, Taraji P. Henson, Ray Liotta, Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Mila Kunis, J.B. Smoove and William Fichtner. Basically what I’m saying is that while this is clearly not a great movie, I had a good enough time with it. There. ]

(31 Oct)  The Deep Blue Sea (2012, Terence Davies) 67 
[ The first 10 minutes – the opening movement, I want to say – is quite something. Through evocative visuals and minimal dialogue, we gather that the protagonist, a woman in London circa 1950, played by Rachel Weisz, wants to put an end to her life because of the complicated feelings she has for her husband (Simon Russell Beale) and the man she’s been having an affair with (Tom Hiddleston). This is conveyed through a deeply melancholy yet sensual sequence, with shots flowing into each other and a violin’s lament overwhelming the soundtrack. Classical filmmaking, but it works. Later on the film grows more talky and it becomes more apparent that it’s adapted from a stage play, but it remains a formally interesting, engrossing period melodrama. Splendid acting, too. ]

September / November

2012 log (9)

(4 Sep) Bernie (2012, Richard Linklater) 83
[ I knew next to nothing about this one before seeing it beside the fact that it was directed by Linklater, reuniting with “The School of Rock” star Jack Black. So when it said at the top that it was a True Story, I didn’t know whether or not to believe it (the Coen brothers’ “Fargo” has forever made me suspicious of films claiming to be based on a true story). Likewise, I was never sure whether the documentary-style interview bits with folks from Carthage, East Texas were the real deal or not. But these fact-or-fiction? tensions were not a drawback, quite to the contrary. All through “Bernie”, I felt engaged by them, wondering if I should laugh or not at these people/characters. Once Matthew McConaughey shows up, about half an hour in, in another hilarious turn this year (see also: “Magic Mike”) I started to suspect this was all a big bunch of straight-faced silliness à la Christopher Guest. One thing’s clear from the get-go: Jack Black is a treat as a super-sweet funeral parlour employee who may or may not also be a bullshit artist and may or may not be gay. Oh, and he spends nearly as much time singing here than he did in “School of Rock” (gospel, mostly)! Much of the story deals with his unhealthy relationship with a mean old widow played by Shirley MacLaine, which is ambiguous like the rest of the movie. Who’s exploiting whom there? And there are more such questions we ask ourselves further down the line, as things grow more dramatic. The kicker? This actually IS a true story! Reality can be stranger than fiction, eh. ]

(5 Sep)   Young Adult  (2011, Jason Reitman) 72
[ I always find it amazing how art in general and movies in particular can get their finger on the pulse of something in such a clear, eye-opening way. I mean, not everything in “Young Adult” spoke to me (I’m nowhere near either the mess or the hottie that is that film’s hottie/mess protagonist), but there’s a beat early one where Charlize Theron’s character Mavis wakes up, fools around a little bit, then sits down to write her novel. Chapter One. Blank page. She writes two lines, then switches to one of the other windows open on her computer and skims a bunch of new emails. Ha! That’s so what’s it’s like! Is there anyone in these 21st century lives almost always centred around one’s computer/internet…  Procrastination has always been a thing but nowadays, it’s monumentally easy to put aside writing the Great American Novel or whatnot to tweet, update your status, Google something, etc. Another thing: a tad later in this post-”Juno” reunion of writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman, Mavis goes on a road trip and brings an old mixtape, and she keeps rewinding it just to listen to that one song. That made me nostalgia so hard! Not that I miss-miss cassette tapes, but I spent so much time listening to them that I kinda do, actually… Same thing for the way Mavis is going back to the suburban town where she grew up: I can’t say that I *like* the suburbs, but they are part of what made me who I am so, again, nostalgia. It’s so weird…  I just looked up Diablo Cody’s Wikipedia page and yup, she was born around the same time that I was (less than 2 years apart), which explains the 1990s stuff littered all over “Young Adult”. The film is all about arrested development, a huge generational issue obviously, what with all these folks in their 30s more or less clinging to their youth – Theron’s Mavis being a particularly pathetic example of it. It’s okay to still be fond of the music and stuff you liked back in the day, like Patton Oswalt’s endearing geek character, but to still be obsessed with your ex from high school even though he’s now married and has a newborn kid. Eesh! It starts out funny, but eventually grows mostly cringeworthy to watch this trainwreck happen. Great performance by Theron, in any case.  ]

(6 Sep) Cyrus (2010, Jay & Mark Duplass) 70
[ Having enjoyed “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” a great in spite of some obnoxious directorial tics on the part of the Duplass brothers, I was looking forward to discovering their earlier work. “Cyrus” for one is very much in the same spirit as “Jeff”, dealing as it is with a guy (the great John C. Reilly) having a hard time getting out there and doing something, anything. Except that in this case, he’s not a 30-year-old still living with his mom, but a divorced man feeling lonely and desperate to meet someone new. To paraphrase one of the non-Reilly characters from “Magnolia”, he has so much love to give, he just doesn’t know where to put it… This is the kind of raw emotion at the heart of “Cyrus”, which is also full of awkardness and quirks… And it’s really funny! It truly and forever won me over 10 minutes in with a quasi-musical number involving a super-drunk Reilly singing and dancing to The Human League’s Don’t You Want Me, embodying one of the greatest qualities someone can have, in my opinion, namely to just do what feels right and have some fun, damn it, without caring what other people will think. The wonderful thing here is that early on, just around the time of that number actually, he does meet somebody to love, a woman played by the adorable Marisa Tomei, and things seem to be looking up… Until he meets her son, a 21-year-old weirdo portrayed by Jonah Hill, which leads to a lot of the aforementioned awkwardness and laughs. It’s not always an easy watch, as you really wish Reilly could get a break and be happy with Tomei, but hey, that’s life I guess. ]

(7 Sep)  Capitalism: A Love Story   (2009, Michael Moore)
[  I used to love Michael Moore, but… Well, I still like him, but it’s telling that it took me three years before bothering to watch his latest. There are a few things at work here: for one, I feel that each Moore flick more or less seems to be lesser than the previous one. To me, “Roger & Me” is a stone-cold masterpiece. Skipping ahead a bit, “Bowling for Columbine” was pretty great as well… And “Fahrenheit 9/11” was rather memorable too, though by then we knew the formula (and shortcuts) rather well… Then came “Sicko”, which was good enough, but hardly as impactful in popular culture as the three aforementionned titles. And now (well, three years ago) we have “Capitsalism: A Love Story”, which doesn’t feel like a unique kind of documentary anymore, but like one of many, many films that similarly use satire, montage and filmmaker-as-character beats to get their message across. Even the subject is hardly original: how many documentaries have been made about the 2008 financial crisis? Too many to count, I’m afraid. All that being said, there’s no denying that Michael Moore can still be effective, if not as distinctive and refreshing as he once as. Take an early sequence drawing parallells between life in Ancien Rome and 2000s America: not the most original idea, but the execution is clever and pretty striking. Then you’ve got a bunch of heartbreaking footage of people being evicted from their homes.. Again, nothing we haven’t seen before, but it’s still painful to watch. Most impressive is the way Moore manages to get genuinely evil capitalist bastards to talk on camera about how it’s sometimes all about taking advantage of the weak and unfortunate – one guy litterally compares himself to a vulture! It’s everything we’ve grown to expect from Michael Moore movie… No surprises, but still good stuff! Every other sequence is a keeper, a brilliantly edited assemblage of archival footage, movie clips and home movies that can be both funny and sad, enjoyable and angering… Like capitalism, basically. Not a bad system per se, but boy can it be abused! According to Moore, it’s the Reagan administration that is to blame first, for the way they removed/crippled the things that made the U.S. economy viable, allowing banks and corporations to gut the middle class for quick profit. And then things got even worse under Bush, leading to the 2008 crash…  It’s all very depressing, even though Moore throws in gags here and there, and a hopeful message at the end. But it’s well worth watching nevertheless.  ]

(8 Sep) The Queen of Versailles (2012, Lauren Greenfield)
[ Another film about the 2012 financial crash, in this case as experience by a filthy rich family who hits a wall after years of living a ridiculously decadent lifestyle. A riveting depiction of how even the most arrogantly wealthy can be humbled once their luck run out. ]

(9 Sep) Wedding Crashers (2005, David Dobkin) [ review ] 69

(10 Sep) Superman (1978, Richard Donner) 71
(11 Sep) Superman II (1980, Richard Lester & Richard Donner) 77
(12 Sep) Superman III (1983, Richard Lester) 18
(13 Sep) Superman IV (1987, Sidney J. Furie) 3
[ A look back at the Superman Tetralogy ]

(14 Sep) L’affaire Dumont (2011, Daniel Grou-Podz) [ review ] 62

(15 Sep)   Shark Attack  (1999, Bob Misiorowski) 45
[ Here’s a rare shark movie that’s NOT a “Jaws” knockoff. Instead it’s a pretty cool little action flick packing a bunch of explosions, fights and shout-outs, as well as a series of shark attacks. The plot is too silly to summarize, the best thing about it being how it revolves around Steven McKray, a character who, as portrayed by the great Casper Van Dien, has got to be the most badass marine biologist of all time! Also of note is the fact that the film features a lot of real footage of sharks in action, even though this sometimes makes for incoherently edited sequences mixing said real footage with shots of actors (or stuntmen) pretending to be attacked by off-screen sharks. Still, this remains an enjoyable enough B-movie. ]

(17 Sep)   Bronson (2008, Nicolas Winding Refn) 49
[ Tom Hardy may be the ultimate chameleon in movies today. It’s like he looks and sounds different in every film of his I see. I mean, even though he plays brutish forces of nature in “The Dark Knight Rises”, “Warrior” and this here “Bronson”, each character is distinctive in the way he speaks, moves and, well, fights. Because like in the other two titles, Hardy spends a lot of time beating the shit out of other people in “Bronson”, a film inspired by the life of a notorious British convict who went by the borrowed name of action movie star Charles Bronson. Here’s a bloke who actually enjoys being in prison, which he finds to be the perfect place for a guy like him who likes to deal with every situation with his fists! Director Nicolas Winding Refn tells his story by using a lot of colorful visual flourishes, a mix of classical music and pop / techno on the soundtrack, and transitions featuring Hardy in character talking to camera or performing on stage. A lot of effort to keep the thing feeling lively, basically, to no avail. You see, even though Hardy is riveting in the lead part, “Bronson” suffers from a shapeless narrative, wonky pacing and rampant self-indulgence. It feels long and deeply uneven at 90 minutes. The 20 minute version would be insane, though. ]

(18 Sep) The Master (2012, Paul Thomas Anderson) [ review ] 94  

(19 Sep) Winnie (2012, Darrell Roodt) 40
[ For most of this biopic, it feels like a hagiography, a sappy, simplistic, by-the-numbers retelling of the life of Winnie Mandela and, inevitably, her longtime husband Nelson, and the way they fought against apartheid in South Africa, both of them (especially him of course) being imprisoned for extended periods and whatnot. It’s relatively well put together, but the writing is shaky, too on the nose, with Winnie and Nelson coming off like saints while characters like the security police officer played by Elias Koteas are cartoonishly villainous. If it wasn’t for how amazing an actor Terrence Howard, who plays Nelson Mandela, is, I’m not even sure I wouldn’t have walked out. For the longest time, this really feels like a mediocre TV movie… But then comes the third act and suddenly, it becomes all kinds of complex and ambiguous and idiosyncratic as Winnie Mandela, played strongly enough by Jennifer Hudson, seems to turn into almost a Blaxploitation character, what with the afro and funky music on the soundtrack, plus the “Football Club” entourage of young thugs. All of the sudden, we’re not sure what to think of Mama Winnie, who becomes a rather extreme and controversial figure. Ultimately, the film hedges its bets a little bit, trying to justify her actions or at least balance them against all the good she did do before in her life, but still, she’s hardly a purely heroic protagonist. Too bad the whole film doesn’t reflect that. ]

(20 Sep) This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006, Kirby Dick)
[ Since the late 1960s, Hollywood, or more precisely the MPAA, has been rating movies instead of censoring them. At least, that’s the official story. Because when they give a film a NC-17 (formerly X) rating, that’s a death sentence at the box-office, so filmmakers tend to censor themselves in order to get to resubmit to the MPAA and hopefully get an R. That’s one thing, but the worst part is that the MPAA is ridiculously secretive and their decisions are often hypocritical, like, they’ll allow all kinds of violence, but they’ll get their panties in a bunch over any sex stuff. Especially, it seems, when a movie depicts female pleasure, as if that was offensive! This documentary explores the history of censorship in Hollywood and the way Jack Valenti’s MPAA works, via interviews with former ratings board members, various industry observers and a bunch of filmmakers (Kimberly Peirce, Wayne Kramer, Kevin Smith, Matt Stone, John Waters, Mary Harron, Darren Aronofsky, etc.). ]

(21 Sep) Thunderbolt and Lightfoot  (1974, Michael Cimino) 75
[ I’d never heard of this film until recently, and boy am I glad I took the time to check it out! Right from the opening 10 minutes, it grips your attention, as it introduces its two title characters. Clint Eastwood’s Thunderbolt is first seen in a church out in the country, dressed as a priest and addressing his flock – until a man barges into the church and starts shooting at him then chases him into a field! Meanwhile, Jeff Bridges’ Lightfoot is out in a nearby used cars lot, from which he steals a muscle car, which he drives through the same field where Thunderbolt is running for his life. Right there, we love those two guys and are looking forward to spending a couple of hours with them. I mean, just on paper, the Man with no Name paired with the Dude sounds like a great time, doesn’t it? Well, it is! 70s road movies are a dime a dozen, but this one is particularly enjoyable, as written and directed by a pre-”Deer Hunter” Michael Cimino. It’s full of charm and humor, plus some action and suspense since our anti-heroes are being hunted down by Thunderbolt’s former partners while they drive through the Midwest, and the film eventually turns into a heist flick. Oh, and there’s some insane stuff happening as well, like the scene where they hitch a ride with a basket case with a caged raccoon in the front seat and a trunk full of live rabbits! Good times. ]

(21 Sep) New Year’s Eve (2011, Garry Marshall) 33
[ While moderately better than Gary Marshall’s previous holiday-themed ensemble rom-rom, 2010’s “Valentine’s Day”, this remains a rather dull and forgettable picture that goes out of its way to waste an all-star cast. There are cute moments sprinkled throughout and even some decent ideas here and there, but barely any actual laughs or touching moments. Best in show are Robert De Niro and Halle Berry in my opinion, and I also dug Michelle Pfeiffer and Zac Efron of all people, as well as some of the material involving Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele, Seth Meyers and Jessica Biel (and Til Schwiger!) and some others. But most of the flick is flat, flat, flat, if still watchable enough on an uneventful, turn-your-brain-off evening. ]

(22 Sep) Spring Break Shark Attack (2005, Paul Shapiro) 17
[ The Spring Break is super lame: badly written, badly directed, badly acted, plus no gratuitous sex or nudity whatsoever! The shark attack scenes aren’t too bad, though. ]

(26 Sep) Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 (2012, Jay Oliva)
[ While there’s no substitute for the lasting impact of Frank Miller’s classic 1986 miniseries, this animated adaptation, the first of two parts of which was just released on DVD and Blu-Ray, is a good to way to get reacquainted with it. It’s such a damn powerful story, that of an aging Bruce Wayne who’s retired The Batman for 10 years when a crime wave involving a street gang known as the Mutants and the old demons from his past force him to put on the cape and cowl again. I love how they kept the way the narrative is framed by excerpts from TV newscasts and talk shows that form a Greek choir of sorts, analyzing the resurgence of the Dark Knight in often fascinating ways. As for the action scenes, they are swift, brutal, and bloody effective. I’m already looking forward to Part 2! ]

(28 Sep) Looper (2012, Rian Johnson) 90
[ Here’s a brilliant sci-fi flick that’s at once relatively small in terms of fireworks (though it does feature some of the best action scenes of the year), with its 2044 main setting having only a few sketched in futuristic flourishes, but that’s downright epic when it comes to ideas. From the trailers, you know that it involves loopers, i.e. hitmen who kill targets from the future who’ve been sent back in time in order for their bodies to be impossible to trace, and that an early twist has the protagonist played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt having to shoot his older self, played by Bruce Willis (the way JLG is made-up to look like Willis is a bit stuntey, but convincing nevertheless). But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. I’m glad I didn’t know what this leads to, so I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s exhilirating the way the film builds and builds and builds, twisting itself in all sorts of fascinating knots. Now, is it completely unique? I guess not, since you could say it juggles elements from “The Terminator”, “Back to the Future”, “12 Monkeys”, “The Matrix”, “Memento”, “Minority Report” and whatnot. But it still feels original and exciting in the end and, in any case, all those other movies are awesome so why not borrow a thing or two from them? Strikingly shot and tightly edited, “Looper” features many cleverly designed sequences that play present and future against each other, but ultimately, the “time travel shit” doesn’t matter so much in a superficial way: what’s great is the way it raises thought-provoking philosophical questions about the way we live our lives, the way our older and younger selves can clash against each other figuratively, the “fuzzy mechanism” that is our memory and the way we put together our own personal timelines, often forgetting other people’s point of view and the way our actions affect them in the process… It’s a film constituted of all these intriguing setups and riveting payoffs, as it conveys a message of sorts about the need to not close loops or patterns, but to change them. ]

(29 Sep) Cedar Rapids (2011, Miguel Arteta) 61
[ “What isn’t wrong with me? I talk too much, I drink too much, I weigh too much, and I piss people off…”
I’m quite fond of these little indie comedies, which may not be all in-your-face, laugh-a-minute, but which let comic performers do their thing in a somewhat more grounded, nuanced manner. In this case, we have the great Ed Helms as a nebbish small-town insurance salesman trying to get his bearings in the big city during a convention, plus the always enjoyable John C. Reilly as a loud, brash, fun-loving bear of a man who Helms ends up rooming with. A classic odd-couple set-up, but it works, thanks to the way the two actors make each of their part more than one-dimensional – Reilly’s character is actually a real standup guy, while Helms’ all too easily slides into dark places once his naive illusions are broken… Well worth checking out. ]

(29 Sep) Mermaids (1990, Richard Benjamin) 60
[ An enjoyable middle-of-the-road coming-of-age / mother-daughters dramedy set in the early 1960s, most notable for the winning performances by Cher, Winona Ryder and an itty-bitty Christina Ricci. Oh, and Bob Hoskins as a the poor guy trying to make sense of this crazy family! ]

(30 Sep) Pitch Perfect (2012, Jason Moore) 43
[ A sort-of enjoyable “Glee”-type quasi-musical, this movie about a cappella singing competitions between groups of college kids could have been much better if the lead actress had more charisma and comic chops than the just-okay Anna Kendrick. It’s still watchable enough thanks to a bunch of fun song performances, plus the priceless, scene-stealing Rebel Wilson. ]

August / October

2012 log (8)

(9 Aug) Strike! a.k.a. All I Wanna Do (1998, Sarah Kernochan) 70
[ Somehow I’d yet to see this rather provocative, witty and naughty high school movie about teen spirits raging playfully raging against the machine in a conformist prep school which, amazingly enough, predates the somewhat similarly themed and/or toned “Rushmore”, “Lost and Delirious” and “The Trotsky”, among others. If anything, it’s a must-see for the wildly enjoyable cast that includes Kirsten Dunst, Gaby Hoffmann, Monica Keena, Heather Matarazzo, Merritt Wever and Rachel Leigh Cook, as well as the venerable Lynn Redgrave. Good times! ]

(10 Aug) Dinoshark    (2010, Kevin O’Neill) 43
[ This Roger Corman-produced, made-for-TV Syfy production is yet another silly “Jaws” rip-off, but with some enjoyable twists. It involves a prehistoric shark that has been frozen for millions of years before it’s freed (thanks, global warming!) and goes on a killing rampage, which somehow climaxes during a Fiesta Week all-girl water polo match in a Mexican canal! The CGI “dinoshark” is ridiculous yet still pretty badass and its attack scenes are rather enjoyably sudden and bloody, plus the movie is filled with hilariously dumb one-liners. The weakest link has got to be the cast, which is mostly godawful, though tall, square-jawed Eric Balfour makes for a cooler than average B-movie protag and I also dug the extended cameo by Corman himself.   ]

(12 Aug) The Dark Knight Rises  (2012, Christopher Nolan) [ review ] 95

(13 Aug)   Real Steel (2011, Shawn Levy)        60
[   I consider Shawn Levy to be one of the better working directors of middlebrow Hollywood family movies. Doesn’t sound like much of an endorsement, but when you see some of the unwatchable crap that targets kids these days, you have to appreciate the easygoing charm, giddiness and occasional wit of films likes Levy’s “Big Fat Liar”, “Cheaper by the Dozen” and especially “Night at the Museum”. There’s an old-fashioned quality to Levy’s movies, including his latest, “Real Steel,” which often feels like a throwback to the 1980s work of one of its executive producers, Steven Spielberg. Set in the near future, “Real Steel” stars Hugh Jackman as a former boxer who’s now moved on to the next big thing: managing fighting robots. Loosely based on a Richard Matheson short story, this sci-fi tale doubles as a drama about a deadbeat dad trying to make good with his son (Dakota Goyo) after his mother’s death, which makes it a virtual remake of the Sylvester Stallone arm-wrestling flick “Over the Top.” Levy says he hasn’t actually seen that one, but he admits that films like “Rocky” and “The Champ” were influences, much more than, say, “Transformers”.  As such, even though the rousing robot boxing sequences do play an important part in the film, don’t be surprised if you find yourself unexpectedly moved by the climax.  

Note: this is a repost of a blurb written in September 2011 after I first saw the film.   ]

(15 Aug)   Camion (2012, Rafaël Ouellet) 91
[ In many ways, this feels like what Quentin Tarantino calls a “hang-out movie,” i.e. a film that displays some clear storytelling, but that isn’t plot-driven – it’s all about spending time with some wonderful characters, namely Julien Poulin’s aging trucker Germain Racine and his two sons, janitor Samuel (Patrice Dubois) and wannabe-songwriter Alain (Stéphane Breton). The structure interestingly has us hanging out with each of them separately first, then we take a ride with the two brothers, before they get to their old man’s house in Dégelis and we finally see the three of them together. And then… Well, not to spoil anything, but let’s just say that I was pleasantly surprised to find that the expected big emotional breakthrough or catharsis never came along. Things happen during the film and the characters do evolve, but in a very subtle, subdued, true-to-life way. This might also have something to do with the fact that men, in Quebec anyway, often have trouble expressing what they feel, or else it comes out all wrong… In that way, “Camion” is a companion piece of sort to Robin Aubert’s astonishing “À l’origine d’un cri,” while also sharing some elements with Sébastien Pilote’s “Le Vendeur.” But most of all, this is a Rafaël Ouellet movie through and through, even though he’s not dealing with young women like in his three previous features. And while there’s pretty much more dialogue here than in the other films (combined!), Ouellet, who also edited “Camion”, still takes the time to allow for some of his signature lyrical, contemplative moments where the visuals -and music, often- take over. Speaking of which, cinematographer Geneviève Perron must be praised for her masterful, expressive work – this is a superb looking film, which makes great use of interiors draped in darkness and exteriors bathed in natural light, finding grace notes all along the way. I also loved the score by Viviane Audet and Robin-Joël Cool, as well as the songs by Richmond Fontaine, Will Driving West and others, who all share a certain conception of Americana/country/folk music which fits perfectly with the universe of “Camion,” which could more or less be described as a stalled road movie – the titular truck spending most of the running length parked and rusting away. Which describes the three proganists rather aptly, too. Okay, this sounds super depressing, but the three leads are too engaging and enjoyable for the film to ever become a total bummer. Breton in particular is downright hilarious. It’s a real treat that we get to hang out with these guys, and I’m looking forward to doing so again soon.  ]

(17 Aug) The Expendables 2 (2012, Simon West) 90
[ The original The Expendables was enjoyable enough, but… Well, it was a great idea – let’s put a bunch of old-school action stars together and let them go to town – but the execution was flawed at best. As I wrote at the time, “If it had come out in the 1980s, during the golden age of the genre, it wouldn’t be held up as a classic, nor would it have been forgotten. It’d be just another one of these titles that’s fun to rent or catch on TV once in a while for a good dose of testosterone.” Whereas this here sequel would indeed classify as an action cinema classic, then and now. It brings back everything that was good about the first movie and makes it truly great, then it adds a whole bunch of extra awesome on top of it. The plot (which involves Cold War relics, fittingly enough) is more streamlined, the characters are better defined and the cast members showcased more efectively, and the actual action scenes are way more fun, bloody and memorable. Simon West has directed a lot of crap over the years, but with The Expendables 2, he finally fulfills the promise he showed in Con Air, his badass 1997 ensemble flick. The action set pieces in his latest film are inventive, skillfully staged and consistently thrilling. Now that he doesn’t have to worry about being both in front and behind the camera, Sylvester Stallone seems more at ease in the lead role of Barney Ross, the grizzled big poppa of the Expendables. For instance, I got more out of his rapport with right-hand-man Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), and I also loved the way Barney interacted with his other guys: Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren, who may just deliver the best performance in the movie!), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Toll Road (Randy Couture) and especially newcomer Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth). The six of them work great as a team, whether they’re driving trucks into enemy lines, flying their plane in and out of danger, blowing all kinds of shit up, shooting, stabbing, punching and kicking their way through hundreds of motherfuckers, or just indulging in some good old male bonding. Oh, there’s a lady thrown in there too, Maggie (Nan Yu), who’s fine, but let’s not kid ourselves: macho men are the name of the game here. One of the best moments in the first movie was the scene putting together on screen Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, even though all they did was talk. Not only is the trio reunited in the sequel, they actually go around blasting away bad guys this time around, all the while trading wonderfully cheesy one-liners! This is the stuff geek-boys-who-grew-up-in-the-1980s’ dreams are made of. Imagine: John Rambo, John Matrix and John McClane, together in battle at last! As if that wasn’t enough, they bring in another very special guest star in The Expendables 2, none other than Chuck Norris! They also went all out in the villain department, casting Jean-Claude Van Damme as a real mean, crazy son of a gun terrorist, plus the always imposing Scott Adkins as his main henchman. Just writing all the above feels unreal for me, diehard old-school action movie fan that I am. But actually seeing it all on screen is even better, it all lives up to expectations and then some. As LexG might say, EXPENDABLES POWER. ]

(21 Aug) New Kids Turbo (2012, Steffen Haars & Flip Van der Kuil)
[ This supercharged shock comedy about a gang of spectacularly and sleazy mullet-sporting assholes who decide not to pay for anything anymore (great plan, geniuses!) would be best described as the Netherlands’ answer to Troma movies. It’s all about piling on the most aggressively offensive gags you can imagine and, every time you figure it can’t get worse (or better, depending on the viewer), it does, oh, how it does… And it also gradually turns into a batshit insane, ultraviolent action flick, not unlike Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz, with elements from the Coen brothers’ Burn After Reading thrown in for good measure.  “Truck driver. Honk, honk!” ]

(22 Aug)   The Sitter (2011, David Gordon Green) 69
[ Why did I skip this one in theatres again? Oh yeah, near-unanimous rotten reviews. But as is often the case with almost universally panned flicks, it’s actually not so bad. In fact, if like me, you’re a fan of 1) Jonah Hill and 2) David Gordon Green in comedy mode, this is actually a really fun watch. It’s no “Superbad” or “Pineapple Express” (Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg didn’t write it after all), but as an homage to lowbrow, everything-goes 80s comedies, it works more often than not. “The Sitter” takes place over one crazy night, as Hill stumbles into babysitting three problem children (neurotic Max Records, wannabe-celebutante Landry Bender and juvenile delinquent Kevin Hernandez) then finds himself having to deal with drug dealers (Sam Rockwell and J.B. Smoove, who just about steal the movie), black thugs and dirty cops. Hilarity ensues (it really does!). There are pacing issues and it’s all over the place, but that shaggy-dog quality is part of the fun for me. I particularly enjoy the over-the-top oddness, like the scene set in a bodybuilder-experiment emporium (you’ll see!). I’m also still very fond of the mix of funny and unsettling that is also present in “Pineapple Express” and “Your Highness” (and on TV’s “Easbound & Down,” that insane HBO series co-directed by Jody Hill and David Gordon Green), and which of course can be traced back to the likes of David Lynch, the Coen brothers, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, etc. You know, when a series of fucked up things happen and you’re not sure whether you should laugh or not? Love that shit.   ]

(23 Aug)   POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (2011, Morgan Spurlock)
[ Morgan Spurlock is sort of a less incendiary creative step brother of Michael Moore. His “playfuyl / mindful” brand is somewhat similar to Moore’s, but he tends to go for less controversial, though still interesting subjects. In this case: product placement and movie tie-ins, or How Morgan Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Selling Out! Sounds crass, but it’s actually really fun, thrilling even to watch how Spurlock manages to convince a bunch of corporations to sponsor his movie. And since he’s going for full transparency, it’s not like he’s bullshitting us and hiding the fact that he’s shilling for them, that’s the actual point of the project. This gives the film a meta quality that I loved; the deeper he/we get into it, the more apparent it becomes that “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” is turning into a feature-length commercial – intentionally! It’s kinda like that scene in the first “Wayne’s World” movie, but for 90-some minutes. One of my favourite sequences, obviously, is the one where Morgan talks to other filmmakers about their experiences with product placement: JJ Abrams, Peter Berg, Brett Ratner… and Quentin Tarantino! The latter has actually been turned down by companies more often than not – did you know that the opening scenes of both “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” were written as to take place at Denny’s but the restaurant chain refused to allow them to shoot there? Fascinating stuff. ]

(24 Aug)   It Might Get Loud (2008, Davis Guggenheim)
[ “On January 23, 2008, three musicians came together to discuss the electric guitar.” That’s the simple but effective premise of this rock documentary. Might not sound like much, but wait until you hear who the three musicians are: Jimmy Page from Led Zep, The Edge from U2 and Jack White from the White Stripes! Each of these guys is basically the best goddamn guitarist of his generation, which makes it all kinds of awesome to get to hear them talk about -and play, of course!- the ole six-strings. All three of them are masters of the instantly recognizable riff – they only have to play a few notes for you to recognize not only their style, but also the specific song they’re doing. But they also differ in some ways: White is often the absolute purist, who’d rather play with an old, broken guitar, whereas The Edge is all about the hi-tech effects pedals. As For Page, he falls somewhere in between – his sound is generally pure, but he achieves it by using some of the best guitars ever crafted. In addition to reuniting them in a room, the movie also follows these guitar heroes on their own, in the places that molded who they are and how they play, respectively England for Jimmy Page, Ireland for The Edge and Tennessee for Jack White, and we also get to enjoy archival and concert footage relevant to their recollections. Fascinating stuff (my new catchphrase?).  ]

(26 Aug)  The Avengers  (2012, Joss Whedon)  [ review ] 93

July / September

2012 log (7)

(1 Jul) Wanderlust (2012, David Wain) 72
[ My expectations were modest for this Judd Apatow production, which the wife and I wanted to watch mostly because we’re big fans of Paul Rudd, but it turned out to be not only killer entertainment, but a genuinely good little film as well. From a simple enough premise – straight-laced New York couple tries out the hippie commune lifestyle, hilarity ensues – writer-director David Wain and co-writer Ken Marino develop a witty, insightful, engaging character comedy about a married couple being put to the test in many ways. Paul Rudd is awesome of course (his dirty-talk scene is simply uproarious ) and as his wife, Jennifer Awesome completes him wonderfully. But in many ways, it’s the ensemble cast of supporting characters that makes “Wanderlust” such a hoot: Justin Theroux, Malin Ankerman, Alan Alda, Lauren Ambrose, Joe Lo Truglio, Kathryn Hahn, Jordan Peele, Kerri Kenney-Silver… They’re all really funny, man. Good times! ]

(2 Jul) Katy Perry: Part of Me (2012, Dan Cutforth & Jane Lipsitz)  
[ Has there been a better bubblegum-pop album released since 2010’s Teenage Dream? I actually didn’t even listen to it until earlier this year when I was sent a promo copy of the Complete Confection special edition, but over the past two years, I’d been grooving to the sound of such ubiquitous hits as California Gurls, Teenage Dream, Firework, E.T. and Last Friday Night, and I can’t even count the number of times I’ve watched the accompanying music videos, and not just because Katy Perry is basically a cheesecake version of Zooey Deschanel, as I once wrote. Needless to say I was dying to see Katy Perry: Part of Me, Dan Cutforth & Jane Lipsitz’s concert movie/documentary about her 2011 California Dreams tour, which I had the chance to catch today during one of its “fan sneak previews,” and I wasn’t disappointed. Now, I guess you have to like her and her music to fully enjoy it, but why would you bother to go to her movie if you don’t? Then again, fan or not, you’d have to be really grumpy not to have a smile stuck on your face during much of Part of Me, what with it being, in its most jubilant moments (all the live song numbers, basically), a live-action cartoon of a Technicolor musical, in eye-popping 3D! The candy-colored costumes, the bright lights, the dancing cat, the fireworks, the bubbles, the confetti… It’s a veritable sensory overload. Intercut with the concert scenes is a bunch of interesting behind-the-scenes footage, plus old home videos and new interviews with Katy, her family and her friends that allow us to relive the life story so far of this preacher’s daughter turned Alanis Morissette wannabe turned goofy sexpot pop star. The structure of the film is quite similar to that of Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, with which it also shares an understanding of the importance of social media in today’s pop culture and a willingness to include the fans themselves as much as possible. What makes Part of Me even better than the JB doc is, unfortunately for her, the way fate set up a truly dramatic arc in her life while the cameras were rolling. As you must know, while she was doing her big international tour and scoring a record five #1 singles in a row, her still-recent marriage with Russell Brand crumbled and eventually ended. That personal heartbreak must have been a bitch and a half for her, but it makes for really compelling cinema, especially because of the way it leads to Katy impressively embodying that famous phrase: the show must go on.   ]

(11 Jul) Sushi Girl (2012, Kern Saxton)

(14 Jul)    Batman Begins    (2005, Christopher Nolan)    [ review ]          90

(14 Jul) The Dark Knight  (2008, Christopher Nolan)         [ review ]  93

(18 Jul) The Dark Knight Rises  (2012, Christopher Nolan) 95
[ Having recently revisited the first two episodes of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy about the Caped Crusader’s journey in and out of Gotham City over multiples decades and realized more than ever how each was about an overarching theme (overcoming fear in “Batman Begins”, maintaining hope in the midst of chaos in “The Dark Knight”), I went into “The Dark Knight Rises” looking for one…  But of course, the first time you watch a movie, you’re mostly processing the twists and turns of its story – only after multiple viewings can you really look beyond the plot.  Still, right now, I would say this final film is about anger… or death… or redemption… or all three, and more. One thing’s for sure: this is one hell of an ambitious, provocative, epic picture.  I don’t want to spoil the countless surprises it holds, but you’re probably aware of the first gutsy move Nolan made: setting this sequel 8 years after “The Dark Knight”, establishing that after Commissioner Gordon covered up Harvey Dent’s psychotic Two-Face episode and allowed the Batman to take the blame in order to preserve the late district attorney’s legacy, the masked vigilante hung up his cape and cowl and hasn’t been seen since. What’s more, Bruce Wayne has also become a recluse. What will it take to make both his identities go out into the world again?  I’ll let you discover the details, but let’s just say it involves supervillains Catwoman (enjoyably played in full-on femme fatale mode by Anne Hathaway) and Bane (interpreted with imposing menace as well as a sly, wicked sense of humor by Tom Hardy)…  As well as Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale in what may be his strongest, most complex turn as the Dark Knight)’s growing entourage, including the returning Alfred (Michael Caine), Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Gordon (Gary Oldman), who are all more endearing than ever, plus earnest young cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, delivering one of the film’s most powerful performances) and romantic interest Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). After opening with an insane high-altitude set piece, “The Dark Knight Rises” takes its sweet time catching up with its cast of characters and introducing new ones, and it takes a whole act before the Batman even shows up! Through developments I won’t reveal, he’s soon enough forced into the shadows once again, as things grow darker than ever for Gotham, which is saying a lot. Even if you’ve seen glimpses of the explosive mayhem and terrorism that occurs then in the trailers, you have no idea how grand the scale of it is. It’s truly fascinating the way this all plays into the 21st century sociopolitical zeitgeist, while also brilliantly tying up story threads that were set up in “Batman Begins” then built upon in “The Dark Knight.” Is it the best film in the series? Not quite. [Since it opened a few weeks ago, the movie has kept growing and growing in my mind and has even become a powerful source of inspiration for me. So yeah, it’s totally the best of the trilogy for me, even though…] As written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, and especially as played by Heath Ledger, the Joker towers above everything else in these three films. That being said, there’s still tons of mind-blowing, heart-pounding stuff in “The Dark Knight Rises.” Again, I don’t want to just spoil a whole bunch of stuff before you get a chance to see the flick, but allow me to just share how thrilled I was to find that, to me anyway, some of it plays like one of my favourite movies, “Rocky IV”, what with a seemingly washed up Batman having to train harder than ever to fight a seemingly unbeatable monster of a man. How awesome is that?  ]

(20 Jul) Resolution (2012, Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead)
(22 Jul) it’s such a beautiful day (2012, Don Hertzfeldt) 100
(22 Jul) Lloyd the Conqueror (2012, Michael Peterson)
(22 Jul) The Devil’s Carnival (2012, Darren Lynn Bousman)
(23 Jul) The Victim (2012, Michael Biehn)
(24 Jul) Starship Troopers: Invasion (2012, Shinji Aramaki)
(30 Jul) Singham (2012, Rohit Shetty)
[ Part of our F a n t a s i a 2012 coverage ]

June / August

2012 log (6)

(1 Jun) C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005, Jean-Marc Vallée) [ review ] 85

(9 Jun) Jersey Shore Shark Attack (2012, John Shepphird) 32
[ There’s this whole subgenre of cheapie made-for-TV B-movie knockoffs of “Jaws” involving various species of killer fish or reptiles. The latest is this shark slasher flick that, as its title implies, doubles as a spoof of MTV’s already self-parodic reality TV show about spectacularly moronic, trashy and obnoxious guidos who, in this version, must fend against a pack of laughably unconvincing CGI sharks during the 4th of July weekend. Oh, and former *NSYNC member Joey Fatone cameos – as himself! It’s all very silly, but it’s too entertaining in a so-bad-it’s-good way to dismiss entirely. ]

(11 Jun) Moonrise Kingdom (2012, Wes Anderson) 85 
[     The year is 1965. A “troubled girl” (Kara Hayward) and a nerdy orphan boy (Jared Gilman) run away together in the wilderness. Chasing them are the girl’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), the boy’s Khaki Scout master (Edward Norton), a local cop (Bruce Willis) and Social Services (Tilda Swinton). That’s about the gist of Wes Anderson’s second collaboration with co-writer Roman Coppola (following the underrated The Darjeeling Limited), but as is always the case with Anderson’s movies, the plot is just the framework for an endless series quirky, witty, trippy traits and touches, starting with all these Scouts who take themselves way too seriously and recklessly toy with violence and danger…  Then of course there is the hazy, 60s-movie quality of the cinematography, the impeccable shot composition and perfectly timed camera movements,  the meticulous, dense art direction, the typically great soundtrack (the use of Françoise Hardy’s Le Temps de l’amour during the underwear dance/gawky teen make-out scene being the most priceless music cue), not to mention the wonderfully arch dialogue and all those priceless non sequiturs (“I’ll be out back. I’m gonna find a tree to chop down.”). The only slight drawback, for me, is how the two young leads (both first-timers) seem to be having trouble with line delivery. They look the part and their characters remain adorable nonetheless, but they’re just not that great as actors, not yet anyway, especially compared to the incredible adult cast, which also includes Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban and Harvey Keitel. Still, Moonrise Kingdon remains a major treat, packing big laughs and building up to an unexpectedly touching resolution. ]

(15 Jun) Rock of Ages  (2012, Adam Shankman) 38 
[     Adam Shankman may be a good choreographer but man, is he a bad director! It’s pretty amazing how he manages to make a jukebox musical about the 1987 L.A. rock scene feel so flat, then he doesn’t seem to have any sense of what story he’s trying to tell, the pacing is off, the tone is all over the place (from campy to sappy to pseudo-trashy, in no consistent way)… Still, I got a kick out of all the cheesy 80s hair metal and power ballads (Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Poison, Foreigner, etc.), even though some of it has been put to better use by “Glee” (Journey anyone?) and some of the performances are entertaining, if uneven, including those by Tom Cruise as a cross between Bret Michaels and Axl Rose, Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand as the owner and manager of a legendary rock club, Paul Giamatti as a sleazy manager and Malin Akerman as a reporter for Rolling Stone. Oh, and the monkey is awesome! Not faring so well are Catherine Zeta-Jones as the self-righteous, hypocritical Mayor’s wife and Mary J. Blige as a strip joint owner, mostly because their characters feel superfluous. And then there are the two young leads, Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta, who are okay I guess, but not nearly charismatic enough to make up for how trite everything surrounding their characters is. Your mileage may vary, etc.  ]

(21 Jun) Chronicle   (2012, Josh Trank) 74 
[ I missed this when it played in theatres in February, and I’m glad I caught up with it. Obviously I love superheroes; found footage movies, not so much, but I was impressed with how cleverly this particular film used this technique. Found footage is most often used for horror because it supposedly makes it feel more real, so I guess it makes sense to apply that to a sci-fi concept which is meant to instill a sense of what-if? wonder. Writer Max Landis and director Josh Trank, both first timers as far as features go, seem to have an innate comprehension of comic book storytelling, following the codes of the genre while also subtly subverting them, not unlike M. Night Shyamalan did in Unbreakable. Chronicle starts out like a high school movie, as Andrew (Dane DeHaan) gets his hands on a camera and starts documenting his everyday life, at home with his abusive alcoholic of a father and bedridden mother, and at school where he either gets bullied or rejected. Then one night when he’s brought to a party by his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), the two of them and popular kid Steve (Michael B. Jordan) stumble upon what seems like a meteorite that has carved a crater into the ground. This encounter gives them super powers, kinda like the Fantastic Four except they didn’t have to go into space for this to happen. Then they start fucking around with their newfound telekinetic abilities, until they more or less realize that with great power comes great responsibility, Spider-Man style… And then it goes to some dark, twisted places… While not revolutionary or anything, both the screenplay and direction of Chronicle display ample resourcefulness and inventiveness, and the use of quasi-seamless special FX is especially impressive. I also dig how it takes its time setting up the characters and showing them learning to use their powers, before building up to the big crazy climactic battle. ]

(27 Jun) The Amazing Spider-Man (2012, Marc Webb) 52
[ I’m sure every review will touch upon this, including the positive ones but really, why would they reboot the “Spider-Man” franchise barely 10 years into it? Because they expect to make tons of money with this new version, of course, but wouldn’t just recasting and making another Spidey adventure work? Do we really have to go through the whole origin story again? The first time around, I enjoyed how the filmmakers took their time before putting Peter Parker in the suit, but during this second go-around, it bugged me (pun unintended). I found act one (and most of two) rather dull, with a lot of it the beats being the same as in the original flick, but not as good, and whatever little twists and changes being made generally feeling wrong. Like, suddenly, Peter Parker, while still a science whiz who gets bullied, isn’t that much of a geek anymore, but a brooding skateboarding rebel. Andrew Garfield’s cool in the role – maybe too cool. To me, Tobey Maguire’s endearing dorkiness fitted the character much better. Emma Stone, on the other end, is perfectly lovable and goofy-fun as Gwen Stacy (didn’t care for Denis Leary as her police captain father, though). As for Sally Field and Martin Sheen as Aunt May and Uncle Ben , they’re okay I guess, but they’re hardly as touching as Rosemary Harris and the late great Cliff Robertson. One seemingly big difference is that they don’t go into the whole Norman and Harry Osborn thing, though much of the plot does revolve around Oscorp, where Peter Parker’s father used to work and which now employs Gwen Stacy, as well as Dr. Curt Connors, who eventually turns into the Lizard… i.e. another scientist turned psychotic super-villain after injecting himself with an experimental serum. He even hears voices like the Green Goblin! So again, been there, done that for the most part, except that Rhys Ifans is nowhere near as deliciously creepy as Willem Dafoe and that the Lizard looks rather ridiculous. So even when we finally get to the big super confrontations, they feel a bit off. Technically, a lot of the action is awesome, even though director Marc Webb is no Sam Raimi and the film as a whole isn’t that comic-booky, whatever that means. I could go into some other nitpicks, like how the plot relies on all these coincidences or the annoyingly amount of times Spidey unmasks himself (way to keep a secret identity, Webhead!)… But the main thing that bothered me was the rehash thing. Still: Emma Stone, man. ]

(29 Jun) Magic Mike (2012, Steven Soderbergh) 80
[ When I went to see Magic Mike on opening night, in a theatre full of groups of giddy ladies with just a few gentlemen sprinkled throughout, I was probably not only the sole straight male spectator in there, but also most likely one of the only ones who was there not to see hot guys work it, but to see director Steven Soderbergh continue his streak of great filmmaking. I must sound like a broken record by now, but I just can’t get over how prolific and versatile the man is. There’s really no one else like him, at least as far as contemporary American directors go. Following two astonishing genre movies – 2011’s sci-fi/horror/disaster thriller Contagion and this January’s badass action flick Haywire – we find him seemingly going back to doing a lower-budget, character-driven film. Then again, even though it has Soderbergh’s cinematographer alter ego Peter Andrews interestingly playing around with filters and oddball angles while editor Mary Ann Bernard (another Soderbergh alias) gives the film a somewhat atypical stop-and-start rhythm, Magic Mike is actually one of the most entertaining movies he’s ever made, further blurring the line between indie and Hollywood, auteur and commercial. It’s not Ocean’s Eleven-slick, but it’s certainly not a Godardesque experiment à la The Girlfriend Experience. And unlike that peculiarly sexless Sasha Grey-as-an-escort film, Soderbergh’s male strippers joint delivers the goods, skin-wise! I’m not gay, but I still have to admit that the stars of the film are incredibly cut and, for the most part, they certainly know how to move. Channing Tatum, whose own experiences as a stripper back when he was an 18-year-old in Tampa, Florida, is particularly impressive. He was the star of the first Step Up after all, so imagine that, but with him taking his clothes off! More importantly, Tatum oozes with easygoing charm as the title character of Magic Mike, getting a lot of laughs and also making us care for his character. In a way, it reminded me of Mark Wahlberg’s performance in Boogie Nights, and Soderbergh’s film in general reminds a bit of that early Paul Thomas Anderson directorial effort, in the way the first half conveys the excitement of the sex-industry lifestyle (“Women, money and a good time,” as Mike puts it) and the second shows the darker side of this world. Now, Magic Mike never gets all that dark and right up to the wonderful final scene, it remains a really enjoyable romp, notably thanks to the unforced quality of the flirtatious relationship Mike has with Cody Horn, who plays the no-nonsense sister of his protégé (Alex Pettyfer). The camaraderie between the strippers is also tons of fun, the whole ensemble (Matt Bomer, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodríguez, Joe Manganiello, etc.) grooving nicely together, on and off the stage. And then there’s Matthew McConaughey, who almost steals the film as Dallas, the owner/MC of the strip club, with his “all right, all right, all right” Texas drawl and Frank T.J. Mackey-style predatory machismo. At the risk of losing my comic book geek credentials, Magic Mike is so much more satisfying than The Amazing Spider-Man (Emma Stone notwithstanding) it’s not even funny. ]

(30 Jun) The Wedding Planner  (2001, Adam Shankman) 21 
[ Okay, this is junk, even by crappy Hollywood rom-com standards. Contrived, unconvincing, unfunny, boring, full of clichés and nonsense, ugly-looking, badly edited… Worst of all, stars Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Lopez don’t even have chemistry! Still, this is a rather painless, harmless watch but… Blech. ]

May / July

2012 log (5)

(9 May) Aliens (1986, James Cameron) [ review ] 92

(11 May)  Casino  (1995, Martin Scorsese)  [ review ] 92

(16 May)  Laurence Anyways   (2012, Xavier Dolan) [ review ] 50

(17 May) Bloody Fight in Iron-Rock Valley (2012, Lee Moo Saeng)
[ As soon as he’s released from prison, a mysterious man (Lee Moo-saeng) sets out to find a series of shady characters with whom he has unfinished business. Carrying a music box as a reminder of what they took away from him years ago, the motorcycle-riding stranger returns to Gangwon, the South Korean province where it all began and where it will all end, one way or another. While tracking down the thugs led by the cruel Ghostface (Yoon Sang-hwa), our nameless hero crosses paths with an alluring young woman involved with both the local gambling house and a nearby Buddhist temple. She soon has reasons of her own to desire vengeance. In BLOODY FIGHT IN IRON-ROCK VALLEY, we see people get beaten up with a hammer, tortured, stabbed…One poor soul even has a blowtorch jammed in his mouth and lit up – and that’s just during the first ten minutes! Before the opening titles have even had time to appear on screen, first-time writer-director Ji Ha-jean has not only introduced his badass protagonist and the film’s loathsome villains, he’s also made sure to make us understand that we’re in for an intense, merciless journey. Set in in a corrupt province where construction industry bosses hobnob with organized crime and scheme to exploit natural resources (nothing that we could possibly be familiar with here in Quebec, right?), BLOODY FIGHT IN IRON-ROCK VALLEY thus adds a political subtext to the core revenge story. In addition, the foggy mountain backdrop and guitar-driven score give an atmospheric quality to this low-budget but high-octane production. As a modern-day Man with No Name, Lee Moo-saeng doesn’t say much but subtly conveys his character’s stormy emotional baggage, and when he confronts the many evil bastards who populate the film, his steely resolve is chillingly imposing. ]

(19 May) Whatever Works (2009, Woody Allen) 72 
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(25 May) Jackpot (2012, Magnus Martens)

(26 May) Slackers (2002, Dewey Nicks) 29
[ Here’s a spectacularly badly written and directed post-”American Pie” sex comedy, starring lame, white-bread Devon Sawa and James King… Why did I bother watching it? Two words: Jason Segel. I just adore the guy, he’s pretty much my favourite comedy actor these days, and it’s a hoot to watch him in this early performance from a little while after he played in “Freaks and Geeks,” even though the movie as a whole blows. I also enjoyed Jason Schwartzman’s fully committed performance as a little psychotic stalker nerd who should be, well, fully committed. Laura Prepon also has her moments, and I guess it’s worth noting that both Gina Gershon and Cameron Diaz have uncredited cameos… Though the most memorable bit part has to be the one by 1950s sex symbol Mamie Van Doren, still getting topless at 70-some years old, heh. ]

(29 May) Cosmopolis (2012, David Cronenberg) 92 
[ Now, this is what I call visionnary sci-fi – even though the bulk of the film is made up of scenes of people sitting and talking in a car. I mean, that’s the future: not spaceships, but the back of a stretch limousine filled with touch screens, where a twentysomething billionaire does business with various associates en route while, outside the limo’s bulletproof windows, the world is in chaos. Even though it’s based on a 2003 Don DeLillo novel that predates the Occupy Wall Street movement, Cosmopolis captures the current zeitgeist, what with its protagonist being very much the 1% and the people protesting in the streets of New York he’s being driven through or directly assaulting him embodying the 99%. Jam-packed with fascinating, brilliantly worded, often downright philosophical dialogue about contemporary economics and capitalism as well as life in the 21st century in general, Cosmopolis is also a darkly satirical, ultimately oddly moving character study of a not only functionnal but spectacularly successful sociopath. As such, it reminded me somewhat of American Psycho and, as hard as it may be to believe, Robert Pattinson’s performance is nearly as riveting as Christian Bale’s was in that movie. Inspired by James Joyce’s Ulysses, which itself borrowed elements from Homer’s Odyssey, DeLillo’s tale feature a succession of memorable figures whom Pattison’s character encounters during his journey, played in the film by an impressive cast that includes Sarah Gadon, Jay Baruchel, Juliette Binoche, Emily Hampshire, Samantha Morton, Mathieu Amalric, Gouchy Boy, Patricia McKensie, George Touliatos and Paul Giamatti – not to mention Kevin Durand, who’s simply awesome as Pattinson’s bodyguard. As mentionned, the majority of the action takes place in a limo, yet director David Cronenberg and cinematographer Peter Suschitzky manage to make Cosmopolis into a consistently visually stimulating experience thanks to clever, inventive framing and shot composition… And fear not, Cronenberg fans, there are still some startling bursts of sex and violence in his latest feature. All the same, it’s the words and the ideas that fill Cosmopolis that prove to be the most thrillingly provocative thing about it. I can’t begin to understand why the Cannes Film Festival jury ridiculously overlooked this truly amazing film. ]

April / June

2012 log (4)

(5 Apr) Another Silence (2012, Santiago Amigorena) 47
[ After suffering a personal tragedy, a rogue Toronto cop (Marie-Josée Croze) goes all the way to Argentina to track down the young thug (Ignacio Rogers) who shattered her existence. A self-serious B-movie, Another Silence is a slow, moody, quiet affair punctuated by brief bursts of violence. It’s elevated somewhat by the intense, haunted performance by Croze, the majestic landscapes of Argentina’s Jujuy province, the great score by Yves Desrosiers and the use of Lhasa de Sela’s What Kind of Heart as an emotional linchpin. But in the end, this sophomore effort from Santiago Amigorena (A Few Days in September) remains a rather generic revenge story marred by poor writing and an uneven supporting cast. ]

(5 Apr)   Titanic  (2011, James Cameron) [ review ] 91

(14 Apr)   Murder by Death  (1976, Robert Moore) 73
[  As cleverly written by Neil Simon, this film is an amiable spoof of old-fashioned murder mysteries, in which a group of thinly veiled send-ups of famous fictional detectives, naemly Peter Sellers as a Charlie Chan type, James Coco as a Hercule Poirot type, Elsa Lanchester as a Miss Marple type, David Niven and Maggie Smith as Nick and Nora Charles from “The Thin Man”, and my favourite, Peter Falk as Sam Spade and hard-boiled Humphrey Bogart characters in general. Also starring Alec Guiness, Nancy Walker and, incredibly enough, Truman Capote, who’s absolutely hilarious, “Murder by Death” is a killer comedy (terrible pun intended). ]

(5 Apr)  Sound of My Voice  (2012, Zal Batmanglij) 44
[    This ultra-indie quasi sci-fi film shares more than a few aspects with Take Shelter (which also premiered at Sundance 2011), starting with a truly intriguing premise and sustained narrative ambiguity. Christopher Denham and Nicole Vicius star as a couple of documentary filmmakers who infiltrates a secretive L.A. cult led by Maggie (co-writer Brit Marling), a mysterious woman claiming to come from the future. But whereas Take Shelter always remained riveting thanks to awe-inspiring visuals and an amazing performance by Michael Shannon, Sound of My Voice suffers from flat direction by Zal Batmanglij and generally subpar acting. Brit Marling, for one, is nowhere near as charismatic as her character is supposed to be. ]

(18 Apr)  Young and Wild  (2012, Marialy Rivas) 65
[ Despite her evangelical, thou-shalt-not-fornicate upbringing (or maybe because of it?), 17-year-old Daniela (Alicia Rodríguez) indulges in various sexual adventures and fantasies, all of which she writes about in her blog. Chilean filmmaker Marialy Rivas neatly conveys this via crude, witty voiceover narration and flashes of the images, photos and porno clips the teenager posts online along with her diary entries. This makes for a rather dynamic, enjoyable watch, but Young and Wild (Joven y alocada) eventually grows a bit more rom-com conventional, even though the romantic triangle Daniela gets into involves a boy (Felipe Pinto) as well as a girl (María Gracia Omegna) who awakens “Sailor Moon horniness” (!) in her. ]

(21 Apr)  30° couleur  (2012, Lucien Jean-Baptiste & Philippe Larue) 60
[ 30° Couleur stars Lucien Jean-Baptiste (who also co-wrote and co-directed the film with Philippe Larue) as Patrick, a black intellectual who made his life in Paris but is forced to return to his native Martinique to visit his mother on her deathbed. There’s little time for melodrama though, as Patrick arrives right in the middle of the Mardi Gras carnival celebrations and is taken on a wild ride by flamboyant drag queen Zamba (Edouard Montoute). The whole thing is a bit formulaic and predictable (can you guess whether the stuck-up, humourless protagonist will learn how to loosen up thanks to these simpler, warmer, fun-loving people?), but it’s too festive, colourful and boisterous not to go along with it and have a good time. ]

(23 Apr) The Hat Goes Wild (2012, Guy Sprung) 2
[ In this thoroughly worthless feature, a group of Montreal teenagers go on a canoe trip in the Quebec backwoods and somehow get stuck in a violent mess involving a large amount of illegal drugs, all of which is immortalized by the camera carried by one of them. Coming off like a godawful student film version of a slasher flick (even though there is no slasher), The Hat Goes Wild features a cast of loathsome characters making a series of spectacularly dumb decisions. The screenplay offers nothing but juvenile bullshit, pseudo-philosophical platitudes and contrived exposition, the acting is rotten (even the usually solid Normand D’Amour embarrasses himself) and the production values are poor even by found-footage film standards. ]

(26 Apr) Habemus Papam (2011, Nanni Moretti) 71
[ This sumptuous Cannes 2011 selection takes us behind the doors of the Vatican during a papal conclave. It’s fascinating to get such access, even through the prism of fiction, and Nanni Moretti finds ample drama and humour in the proceedings, which don’t go as planned in his film. Moments before being introduced to the world, the new Pope (Michel Piccoli) cries out that he can’t do it, which is easy to relate to – who has never felt crushed by doubt and anguish in the face of great change and new responsibilities? It also leads to amusing situations, as the Church high-ups suddenly find themselves twiddling their thumbs, their precious ritual derailed. Habemus Papam stumbles a bit in the third act, but it remains a compelling watch, notably thanks to the extraordinary Piccoli. ]

(27 Apr)  The Avengers  (2012, Joss Whedon) [ review ] 93

(27 Apr)  The Five-Year Engagement (2012, Nicholas Stoller) 68
[  Like “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, the previous romantic comedy Nicholas Stoller directed from a screenplay co-written with star Jason Segel, this is an often funny, insightful and lovely movie, even though it’s a bit ramshackle and it suffers from some pacing issues. What matters the most is that Segel and Emily Blunt are wonderful together, even when things aren’t going so great for their characters. I also loved the supporting cast, especially Alison Brie, Chris Pratt, Mindy Kaling, Chris Parnell, Dakota Johnson and Brian Posehn… A lot of folks, in other words, so the film is enjoyable more often than not. ]

(28 Apr) Living in the Material World (2011, Martin Scorsese) 90
[ In a similar fashion to what he did in “No Direction Home”, his Bob Dylan documentary, Martin Scorsese sets out to tell the story of George Harrison via abundant archival footage, photographs and audio recordings, much of it previously unseen or unheard, all of which is assembled with a great sense of storytelling and flow. Also featuring interviews with the late musician’s family and friends, including Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton, the film is divided into two parts. Part One offers a surprisingly fresh look at the Beatles years, focusing on George’s considerable contribution to the band’s artistry and showing how he tended to be the quieter, wiser, more spiritual member of the quartet. Yet he could also be funny or angry, he was a complex individual, like any other human being, with his flaws and his contradictions. (Just for fun, here’s how great a Beatles LP featuring only Harrison-written songs would have been: “Don’t Bother Me”, “I Need You”, “You Like Me Too Much”, “Think for Yourself”, “If I Needed Someone”, “Taxman”, “Love You To”, “I Want to Tell You”, “Within You Without You”, “Blue Jay Way”, “The Inner Light”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Piggies”, “Long, Long, Long”, “Savoy Truffle”, “I Me Mine”, “For You Blue”, “Something”, “Here Comes the Sun” – to think some folks still think Lennon-McCartney were the only geniuses in the group!) Part Two begins with the disassembling of the Beatles then segues into George’s solo career, beginning with the creation of the amazing Phil Spector-produced “All Things Must Pass” album. The film then touches on the romantic triangle between Harrison, Clapton and Pattie Boyd (which famously inspired the song “Layla”), the Concert for Bangladesh, the ex-Beatle’s forays into cinema (he notably produced Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” and Terry Gilliam’s “Time Bandits), John Lennon’s death, the formation of the Traveling Wilburys (a super group that also featured Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty), his marriage to Olivia Harrison, his relationship with his their son, that horrible time he got stabbed by a home invader, and finally his death from cancer. Granted, if you’re a fan, you knew most of this stuff already, but Scorsese keeps it captivating. And then of course there’s all the awesome music. ]

(28 Apr)  Angle mort   (2011, Dominic James) 13
[ Starting with a total rip-off of the opening scene of “Zodiac”, this unholy blend of crappy telenovela and grade-Z horror then becomes unintentionally funny as it attempts to develop the lead characters, a spectacularly dumb and obnoxious couple played surprisingly awfully by Karine Vanasse and Sébastien Huberdeau, who were a lot better in “Polytechnique”. Filled with lousy dialogue and idiotic plot twists that seem to have been improvised during the shoot (word is that this is pretty much what happened), “Angle mort” follows the couple on vacation to the fictional country of Santiago, where they cross paths with a ridiculous serial killer, portrayed by Peter Miller with a face full of rubber! This is so bad it’s almost worth watching.  ]

March / May

2012 log (3)

(6 Mar)   Payback  (2012, Jennifer Baichwal)
[   The best Canadian documentary since Surviving  Progress, this Sundance 2012 selection is based on the  book by Margaret Atwood, whose deadpan lecture of excerpts from  it acts as narration. Exploring various facets of debt, be it  financial, political, social, moral or ecological,  Payback is thoroughly thought-provoking in the way it  draws parallels between things like the treatment of migrant  farm workers in Florida, a blood feud between two Albanian  families and the BP oil spill. Meanwhile, Jennifer Baichwal  mixes talking-head segments with striking, evocative visuals  accompanied by a great ambient score by Martin Tielli and  Gabriel Morley.    ]

(8 Mar) Produced by George Martin (2012, Francis Hanly)
[ Every music fan already knows the history of The Beatles inside out, but this documentary takes a relatively original angle by focusing on Sir George Martin, the venerable Parlophone label manager who signed the Fab Four (even though he initially thought their music was rubbish!) and produced all their albums. Now 86, he generously opens up about his life and career through this lovely portrait, which also features interventions from his wife Judy, his son and collaborator Giles, as well as surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. ]

(9 Mar) Footloose (2011, Craig Brewer) 63
[ After telling the story of a pimp who wants to be a rapper in “Hustle & Flow” and that of a bluesman trying to tame a nymphomaniac in “Black Snake Moan”, you wouldn’t expect Craig Brewer to be directing a remake of 1984’s Kevin Bacon vehicle “Footloose.” Then again, Brewer does bring to this new version a genial and convincing depiction of a Southern milieu populated by colorful characters, like in his previous movies. The small-town-banning-dancing premise remains silly, the leads are so-so (Kenny Wormald is okay but Julianne Hough is pretty awful), and the film could have used more dancing and less speechifying. Still, I enjoyed spending time in this Bomont, Georgia and really liked most of the supporting cast, especially Miles Teller in the part played by Chris Penn in the original. And good on Brewer for setting his version of the angry dance sequence to the White Stripes! ]

(10 Mar) Wild Thing (2012, Jérôme de Missolz)
[ This doc takes us on a subjective, messy journey full of sex, drugs and loud music that proves to be both fascinating and frustrating. Jérôme de Missolz rockets through the history of uninhibited, transgressive rock, name-checking its countless casualties (Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Sid Vicious, Ian Curtis, Kurt Cobain, etc.), who appear via priceless archival footage, and interviewing such survivors as Iggy Pop, Eric Burdon, Jimmy Carl Black (Mother of Invention), Richard Hell (Television), Lemmy (Motörhead) and Jello Biafra. This could (should?) have been a 10-hour series. ]

(11 Mar) Cinémas d’horreur: ApocalypseVirusZombies (2012, Luc Lagier)
[ Here’s an admirably cinephilic look at the post-9/11 new wave of horror cinema, which reflects the impact of terrorism and the Iraq War on the collective unconscious the same way 70s horror echoed the Vietnam War. Featuring Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes remake), Eli Roth (Hostel), Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza (REC) and Neil Marshall (The Descent), Luc Lagier’s well-crafted documentary explores trends like torture porn and real-time horror without dismissing them out of hand like some do. ]

(12 Mar) L’Empire Bo$$é (2012, Claude Desrosiers) 17
[ From the writers of Camping sauvage – Yves Lapierre, Luc Déry and André Ducharme – comes a similarly misguided, gaudy comedy. Taking the form of a mockumentary, it tells the life story of an unscrupulous business tycoon, played one-dimensionally by Guy A. Lepage. He’s not the worst offender, though, since Claude Legault, Valérie Blais and much of the supporting cast deliver embarrassingly hammy performances. Filled with facile, witless digs at savage capitalism, political corruption and the like, L’Empire Bo$$é is as unsubtle a satire as it is unfunny. It’s Elvis Gratton XXX minus the scatological humour. Not much of an improvement if you ask me. ]

(15 Mar) Footnote (2011, Joseph Cedar) 79
[     Winner of the screenplay award in Cannes and nominated in  the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars, this  Israeli feature depicts the intellectual rivalry between two  Talmud scholars who happen to be related. The son, Uriel (Lior  Ashkenazi), lovingly followed in the footsteps of his father,  Eliezer (Shlomo Bar Aba), but ended up outshining him, which  fills the old man with resentment. Might not sound like it, but  Footnote is a gripping watch, thanks to the finely  tuned script and acute direction of Joseph Cedar  (Campfire, Beaufort). At times reminiscent of  the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man, it also possesses a  droll sense of humour, but it’s mostly heartbreaking, in a  slow-burning kind of way.  ]

(16 Mar) The Hunger Games (2012, Gary Ross) 76
[ In this adaptation of the first book in Suzanne Collins’ bestselling trilogy, Oscar nominee (and “X-Men: First Class” alumnus!) Jennifer Lawrence stars as a 16-year-old girl living in a dystopian future where 24 teenagers are rounded up each year and forced to kill or be killed as part of a government-run televised reality show. Not that original a concept (see also: “The Running Man,” “Battle Royale,” “The Condemned,” etc.), but thanks to confident storytelling, lively and expressive direction from Gary Ross, a potent mix of down-to-earth realism and sci-fi glam, a great score by James Newton Howard, a fun supporting cast (Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Toby Jones) and, most of all, an immensely involving, alternately strong and vulnerable performance by the aforementioned Jennifer Lawrence, “The Hunger Games” entertains, fascinates and disturbs nonetheless. ‘Cause even though this isn’t as brutal as, say, “Battle Royale,” it’s still surprisingly bloody and ruthless for a young-adult-oriented Hollywood franchise. The action is a bit too frantically shot/edited and there are a few narrative cheats in my opinion, but for the most part this is a pretty damn solid flick. Bonus points for actually telling a whole story, with an ending that’s only slightly, subtly open. ]

(17 Mar) Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2012, Jay & Mark Duplass) 84
[ Whoa! You see, not only is this film pretty much all about whether there’s such a thing as destiny, fate, signs and the like, it does so by repeatedly referring to M. Night Shyamalan’s masterpiece, “Signs” – a film I thought I was the only one to be that fascinated about. Speaking of signs (or coincidences, if you’d rather take it like that), “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” happens to star the actors who play my favourite characters in two of my favourite current sitcoms, “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Office,” respectively Jason Segel and Ed Helms. They play brothers who, from the outside, may seem very different – Jeff is a 30-year-old pothead who lives in his mother (Susan Sarandon)’s basement, while Pat has a job, a wife (Judy Greer) and a house – but who turn out to both be rather immature and insecure… We follow them over a day as they try to make sense of various signs and/or coincidences, many of which deal with someone named Kevin – like me! THis leads to a bunch of funny, touching and insightful moments, building up to a conceptually brilliant Shyamalanesque climax… the execution of which is good but not great, though. The Duplass brothers are wonderful writers and decent directors, but they’re very indie, or at least not quite able to knock said climax out of the park and fulfil its potential to be an all-time great sequence. That being said, it still works and the movie remains satisfying and well worth seeing. It’s no “Signs,” but hey… ]

(20 Mar)  Casa de mi Padre  (2012, Matt Piedmont) 75
[ Will Ferrell has been involved in a great many silly movies of the years, but this one takes the cake! I still can’t believe this even exists: a feature length Spanish-language telenovela/narco-drama/burrito-Western sendup starring the former SNL star as a simple-minded, cowardly Mexican ranchero who eventually grows a pair, kills a whole buncha motherfuckers and gets the girl! Intentionally tacky and melodramatic, with a lot of fake-looking sets, props and special effects, but also some genuinely effective action setpieces (and musical numbers, too!), “Casa de mi Padre” co-stars “Y Tu Mamá También” co-stars Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna as ridiculously macho warring drug lords, plus Genesis Rodriguez as the femme fatale around which most of the story revolves. But ultimately, it’s all about watching Will Ferrell hilariously attempt to play it straight as Armando Alvarez – even when he’s acting opposite a magical white mountain lion!  ]

(20 Mar)  Chercher noise  (2012, Yellowtable)
[ If like me, you love music as much as movies, this is a real treat. 10 new songs by domlebo, developed, rehearsed and performed in a series of four-hour sessions with producer Dany Placard and a revolving cast of 37 guest musicians in 10 different locations, all of which has been immortalised by filmmaking team Yellowtable. It’s fascinating to see all these artists collaborating, clashing or finding perfect harmony… ]

(23 Mar)   The Muppets   (2011, James Bobin) [ review ] 90

(26 Mar) The Raid: Redemption (2012, Gareth Evans) 49
[ With the possible exception of the musical, action is my favourite movie genre, so I had high hopes for this hyped shoot-em-up/chopsocky/stab-a-rama epic. Alas, I was mostly disappointed. Oh, there are some absolutely terrific action beats sprinkled throughout the raid, some truly crazy stunts, extremely violent kills, and unbelievable fight choreography. Then again, the whole thing is oddly lacking in my kind of badass fun… Visually, it’s all about grime and gloom, and not in a particularly stylish way – it just feels like the camera is being rushed through ugly, underlit rooms and corridors. Then there’s practically no story (it’s quite literally structured like a video game, with levels and bosses and whatnot), which might have not been an issue if it wasn’t alo thoroughly lacking in compelling characters. But we’re stuck with a bunch of mostly interchangeable Indonesians who can certainly kick ass, but don’t necessarily make much of an impression otherwise. I couldn’t have cared less about any of the cops and criminals chasing each other through the apartment block where everything takes place. Where’s the charismatic action hero we’re supposed to be rooting for? This is like “Die Hard” minus Bruce Willis, or “Hard Boiled” minus Chow Yun Fat, y’know? All the awesome martial arts, machine guns and machetes mayhem in the world doesn’t seem to connect with me when it’s just being thrown on the screen in an effective yet cold and mechanical way. Personality goes a long way, as Jules would say. ]

(28 Mar)  Rebelle   (2012, Kim Nguyen) 90
[  Following Eastern European fantasy “Le Marais”, absurd B-movie homage “Truffe” and Middle-Eastern adventure “La Cité,” which showcased the remarkable visual skills of Kim Nguyen, but unfortunately also his lackluster writing abilities, the Québécois filmmaker finally knocks it out of the park with this fourth feature, where both the screenplay and the direction are truly outstanding. A relatively rare Occidental movie set in Africa that doesn’t use the POV of a white outsider, “Rebelle” stars Rachel Mwanza, who deservedly won the Best Actress award at the Berlin Film Festival for her utterly heartbreaking performance, as Komona, a young girl from an unidentified African country (though the film was shot in Congo)  who’s snatched from her village, forced to kill her own parents, then made into a child soldier by the rebel army, who are waging an unending guerilla warfare against the local government. Interestingly and somewhat disturbingly, the story is told by Komona herself, talking to her unborn baby about the horrors she experienced from 12- to 14- years old. Her tale feels both scary-real and fantastical; deemed a witch by the superstitious rebels, Komona is haunted by visions of the ghosts of her parents and other people she’s killed… As such, “Rebelle” reminded me a lot of “Apocalypse Now” which, incidentally, was based on Joseph Conrad’s Congo-set “Heart of Darkness.” It has to do with all those scenes of soldiers drifting up the river and wandering through the jungle, but mostly with hallucinatory, mythical quality of the storytelling and the striking imagery created by Nguyen and cinematographer Nicolas Bolduc. One thing that distinguishes it from Coppola’s masterpiece is the way it allows the protagonist to, at least momentarily, emerge from the horror, the horror and to feel love and hope, via an impossible romance with another child soldier (Serge Kanyinda). ]

(30 Mar)   A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas  (2011, Todd Strauss-Schulson) 64
[   Ok, so seeing this at home (i.e. in 2D) and at the end of March (i.e. far past Christmas) kind of defeats the purpose of the two main new gimmicks this third episode in the Harold & Kumar saga. But what’s left – the racial satire, the pothead humor, the rampant absurdity – remains enjoyable enough and at times hilarious. John Chu and Kal Penn are still a winning comic duo, Neil Patrick Harris is more shameless than ever as a pussy-hounding, drugged-out asshole version of himself, and I got a kick out of Danny Trejo and Elias Koteas. Oh, and let’s not forget WaffleBot!   ]

(31 Mar)   Chico & Rita (2011, Fernando Trueba & Javier Mariscal) 70
[ Nominated in the Best Animated Film category at the last  Oscars, this Spanish production impresses with its gorgeous,  traditionally drawn images, which nicely convey the liveliness  and colourfulness of the various locations. Taking place in the  years leading up to the Cuban Revolution, Chico &  Rita depicts the passionate affair between a pianist and a  singer, which is put to the test by his infidelities and by her  leaving Havana to pursue her career in New York. Music lovers  should particularly enjoy the film, which boasts a great  soundtrack and features cameos by Charlie Parker, Chano Pozo,  Dizzy Gillespie and others. And Rita has got to be the sexiest  animated character since Jessica Rabbit! ]

February / April

2012 log (2)

(1 Feb) Bestiaire (2012, Denis Côté)
[ This might be Denis Côté’s most radical feature to date. A meditative… nah, ruminative series of long static shots of various animals, Bestiaire will try many viewers’ patience, but I found it oddly captivating, thanks to the thoughtful shot composition and immersive sound design. This is like an anti-nature documentary in the way it observes animals not in their natural environment but in enclosures (the film was shot at Parc Safari, mostly during the off-season) where they roam around aimlessly or just stand there, sometimes staring straight into the camera. It often feels gloomy, disturbing even to see these majestic wild beasts like that, even though Côté says his film is neutral. ]

(1 Feb)     The Help  (2011, Tate Taylor) 81
[ Okay, first, a few rants. One of the (many) things that bug me about some critics is how for them, anything sentimental, heartwarming or inspirational is automatically suspect. Bring on the dark, serious dramas about incest, abortion, death and whatnot, but how dare you make a movie about women standing up for themselves and with each other? Then going into the current Oscar race for a second, I’m annoyed at how so many pundits are being condescending towards “The Help”, in a way that kind of stinks of sexism… I’m not saying it’s about hating women, just that you get the impression that it feels better for some to embrace the latest George Clooney and Brad Pitt vehicles even though they’re ridiculously overrated… I don’t know, it just rubs me wrong. And it’s not like I’m saying that this is a masterpiece. There’s a good 25 pictures I liked better in 2011. Still, this is undeniably a quality production, which takes us to a well recreated time and place, namely Jackson, Mississipi in the 1960s, back when the Civil rights movement was still only brewing and racism was rampant and overt in the South of the United States. There is much heartaches and pain in “The Help,” as experienced by African-American women just a couple of generations away from slavery, who still have to work as “help” for white households where they’re too often treated without the respect they deserve. The plot deals with how a young white journalist (Emma Stone) decides to write a book from the perspective of black maids, and it leads to a lot of moving moments, and a few funny ones, too. Beside Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are both great, and so are Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard and the rest of the cast. Between this and “Bridesmaids”, this has been quite the year for female ensemble casts! The Academy Awards could do a lot worse than to honour this film.  ]

(5 Feb)    King of Devil’s Island  (2012, Marius Holst) 77
[ This harrowing Norwegian drama is based on true events that  took place at the Bastøy Island penal colony circa 1915. The  imposing Stellan Skarsgård plays the cruel governor of this  institution, where teenage boys submit to abusive treatment  until the arrival of a new inmate. As played by Benjamin  Helstad, the new kid is a rebellious, charismatic figure à la  Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke or Jack Nicholson in  Cuckoo’s Nest, one who simply refuses to let his  spirit be crushed. Behind the camera, director Marius Holst  displays an impressive mastery of pace, atmosphere and tension,  delivering a harsh and gloomy film with a dash of hope coming  through via the Melvillesque whaling fantasies of Helstad’s  character and the use of Sigur Rós’ Vaka as a  leitmotif. ]

(16 Feb)    Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu  (2012, Shakun Batra) 61
[ Save for the not-so-conventional ending, this is a rather generic romantic comedy – boy and girl meet-cute, hate each other for a while, then get along really well, then there’s a misunderstanding, they make up and so on. Even the big twist, which has them getting drunk in Las Vegas and waking up unwittingly married to each other, has been done before. (see: “What Happens in Vegas”, “The Hangover”, that one episode of “The Simpsons”, etc. Then again, it’s enlivened by that Bollywood brand of genre-juggling, with roller-coaster peaks of slapstick and melodrama and, of course, a musical number thrown into the mix. And as in any rom-com, the charm and chemistry of the leads goes a long way towards making it at least modestly enjoyable, so kudos to Imran Khan and Kareena Kapoor. ]

(18 Feb)   A Better Life  (2011, Chris Weitz) 82
[ Like many folks I bet, I’m only now catching up to this film because it got nominated in the Best Actor category at the Oscars. And you what? Even though he’s not a charismatic Hollywood star like Clooney and Pitt, a funny and charming performer like Dujardin or as respected a veteran character actor as Englishman Gary Oldman, this here Demián Bichir, who you may remember as Fidel Castro in Soderbergh’s “Che”, would be a totally deserving winner. As an illegal immigrant worker who dreams of “a better life” for his teenage son (José Julián), he conveys overwhelming dignity and humanity, often with little dialogue – kudos to writer Eric Eason and director Chris Weitz for allowing that through sequences of visual storytelling in which we just see Bichir’s character go about his daily routine and get a feel of what he’s like through his actions and reactions. It also gives us a strong feel for the Los Angeles locations where the movie takes us. There’s also much underlying tension through the film, because we know there are so many things that could go wrong for this Mexican man without papers, as well as for his boy, who seems tempted to join a street gang…  ]

(20 Feb)    Goon  (2012, Michael Dowse) 73
[ They’re clearly selling this as a 21st century “Slap Shot,” but to me, what really attracted me more than the whole hockey aspect is the film’s impressive comedic pedigree. Here we have the director of cult classic “FUBAR”, Michael Dowse; one of the writers of “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express”, Evan Goldberg; plus the always fun Jay Baruchel acting as co-writer, co-producer and co-star. Together, they’ve taken the nonfiction book Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey into Minor League Hockey and made it into a ridiculously brutal and outrageous flick that’s also really kinda sweet, when you get past all the violence and foul language (not that those aren’t enjoyable!). As played by Seann William Scott, Doug “The Thug” Glatt is endearingly naive and awkward when he’s not beating the crap out of opposing goons, not unlike Adam Sandler in “The Waterboy”. I loved the cute/goofy fling between Doug and Alison Pill’s puck bunny, his uneasy friendship with Marc-André Grondin’s hard-partying, womanizing star player, as well as his somewhat respectful rivalry with Liev Schreiber’s aging enforcer. There’s a shaggy-dog quality to “Goon” which might bother some, but it kept me engaged, I laughed a lot and yeah, I got some cheap thrills out of the bloody brawls on the ice.  ]

(23 Feb)   Polisse  (2011, Maïwenn) 29
[ Certainly one of the most overrated films of the past year, this Cannes Prix du Jury winner depicts the day-to-day life of the Paris Child Protection Unit. Based on real cases and shot in a quasi-documentary style, “Polisse” features many disturbing scenes involving young victims or those suspected of abusing them. Yet most of the running time of this self-indulgent, miserabilist film by French actress Maïwenn seems to be devoted to depicting the interaction between the cops (including Marina Foïs, Joey Starr and Karin Viard), a sorry bunch who is constantly yelling and/or bullshitting, whether they’re on the job or not. This is a case study in how an important subject does NOT necessarily make great cinema. Oh and that ending? What idiotic, manipulative nonsense. ]

(25 Feb)   Back to the Future   (1985, Robert Zemeckis) [ review ] 95

(27 Feb)   Roméo Onze  (2012, Ivan Grbovic) 70
[  As a cinematographer, Sara Mishara has made great  contributions to the films of Stéphane Lafleur (En terrains  connus), Yves Christian Fournier (Tout est  parfait) and Maxime Giroux (Jo pour Jonathan).  Similarly, Ivan Grbovic’s debut feature wouldn’t be half as  effective if it wasn’t for the rich, fluid visual style he  created with Mishara, who also co-wrote the screenplay. A  sensitive, attentive character study, Roméo Onze  depicts the attempts by a Lebanese-Canadian teen (Ali Ammar) to  assert himself despite his physical disability and the pressure  put on him by his father (Joseph Bou Nassar). With the harp  melody of Hans Otte’s Wassermannmusik 1 as a  leitmotiv, the film tugs at our heartstrings and truly makes us  care for its protagonist.  ]

(29 Feb)   John Carter  (2012, Andrew Stanton) 57
[ Adapted from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 1912 pulp serial A  Princess of Mars, John Carter suffers from the  fact that in the 100 years since its source material was  published, countless science fantasy movies have borrowed from  it, notably Star Wars and Avatar. As such,  there’s a been-there, done-that feeling to the proceedings,  which involve a Civil War veteran (Taylor Kitsch) being  transported to Barsoom (a.k.a. Mars), where he joins a princess  (Lynn Collins) in her fight to save the planet. It doesn’t help  that this live-action debut from Andrew Stanton  (WALL-E) is exposition heavy and that the human cast  is unengaging. On the other hand, the green-skinned, four-armed  Tharks and “monster dog” Woola are awesome, and the action  scenes are fun enough.   ]

January / March