(5 Jan) After Earth (2013, M. Night Shyamalan)40
[ How the mighty fall… To me, from 1999 to 2006, M. Night Shyamalan could do no wrong. “The Sixth Sense”, “Unbreakable”, “Signs”, “The Village” and “Lady in the Water” form a film cycle of unparalleled thematic and stylistic consistency. Then came “The Happening”, a rather ridiculous B-movie, and “The Last Airbender”, which I enjoyed when it came out, but which I’ve never felt the desire to revisit. Worse, when “After Earth” came out, I actually skipped it in theaters. The reviews were of course horrible (11% on Rotten Tomatoes), the trailer wasn’t very attractive to me and to be honest, I’d grown tired of defending Shyamalan. Still, I figured I’d catch it at home eventually. It took two years, but I now have. “After Earth” kicks off with a glimpse of a spaceship crash, followed by a quick exposition dump letting us know that in the future, a nearly destroyed Earth was evacuated by mankind, which ended up having to face evil blind aliens who can track us by smelling our fear… But there’s this guy Cypher Raige (an oddly stiff Will Smith) who’s so fearless that he’s invisible to them. Next, there are some scenes establishing Raige’s son Kitai (Jaden Smith in his awkward teen phase) as a hothead with an uneasy relationship with his father. Then we’re back on the spaceship before it crashes, on the abandonned Earth it turns out, which is now a savage land. With Cypher badly injured, it’s up to Kitai to retrieve an emergency beacon that will allow them to call for help. The film is well shot in 2.35:1 by Peter Suschitzky and the special effects are decent, but the plot is thin and not very involving, like something out of a low-rent video game, with little to offer beside Jaden Smith’s character running around, going through various levels and whatnot. Occasionally, Will Smith gives a speech via radio transmitter to his son and touches on some interesting ideas (“Danger is very real, but fear is a choice.”) and there’s an attempt at bringing in some emotion via flashbacks to the death of Kitai’s sister, so there’s that. Alas, it’s not enough to keep “After Earth” from being the most boring Shyamalan movie I’ve seen. ]

(6 Jan) Deux jours, une nuit (2014, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)75
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

(6 Jan) The Guest (2014, Adam Wingard)79
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

(7 Jan) We Are the Best! (2014, Lukas Moodysson)33
[ Three girls in 1982 Stockholm start a punk band. Sounds cool, but the film is pretty tedious. It takes a half hour for them to even get together and even after that, there’s still a lot of screwing around. Plus I found the characters rather obnoxious, they’re just dumb tweens hanging on to empty angst. Like, their big statement of a song is “Hate the Sport”. Ooh, how rebellious. Then they fight over a boy… And finally, they play their first show, which is a huge fail. You know what? I prefer Iron Fist, the derided metal band with whom the girls share a rehearsal space. Where’s their movie? ]

(9 Jan) Inherent Vice (2014, Paul Thomas Anderson) [ review ] 51

(9 Jan) Die Hard (1988, John McTiernan) [ review ] 94

(10 Jan) There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954, Walter Lang)77
[ Here’s a backstage musical with some comedy and some melodrama thrown in, telling the story of the Donanues (Dan Dailey and Ethel Merman), a couple of vaudeville performers who are soon followed in show business by their children, Johnnie Ray, Mitzi Gaynor and the amazing Donald O’Connor, of “Singin’ in the Rain” fame. The latter eventually hooks up with a young singer played by the irresistible Marilyn Monroe, who throws them all for a loop… Featuring wonderful songs by Irving Berlin, elaborate sets and colorful costumes, “There’s No Business Like Show Business” is an awesome time at the movies. ]

(12 Jan) Selma (2014, Ava DuVernay)44
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

(15 Jan) The Imitation Game (2014, Morten Tyldum)50
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

(16 Jan) American Sniper (2014, Clint Eastwood)83
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

(16 Jan) Jonas: La Quête (2007, Jean-François Pilon)
[ “Let’s rock out with our cocks out!” Tel est le mantra que Jonas répète à travers sa «quête», qui l’emmène de Montréal à Los Angeles, en passant par le Festival de la truite mouchetée de Saint-Alexis-des-Monts! This is Spinal Tap sans le second degré, Jonas: La Quête, de Jean-François Pilon, est au mieux une musicographie, au pire une infopub pour la musique d’aréna, la bière cheap et les pitounes. Le rockeur montréalais y apparaît comme un ours mal léché et, incroyablement, on le voit moins à l’écran que sa gérante (aussi productrice du film) Janie Duquette, une version féminine d’Elvis Gratton qui rêve de faire de Jonas une star mondiale ou, dans les mots de Duquette, de «licencier le produit à l’internationale». ]

(17 Jan) Enchanted (2007, Kevin Lima)65
[ The lead character of a Walt Disney animated fairy tale about true love’s kiss, with talking animals, song numbers and everything, is sent into contemporary New York in this wonderful fish-out-water comedy. The film’s secret weapon is the bright and bubbly Amy Adams, who perfectly embodies a living cartoon princess. The rest of the cast is good as well, from Patrick Dempsey to James Marsden, Susan Sarandon, Timothy Spall and Idina Menzel, though it’s a bit outrageous that the latter doesn’t even get a musical number. Still, this is a lot of fun. ]

(19 Jan) The Theory of Everything (2014, James Marsh)78
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

(20 Jan) Still Alice (2014, Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland)54
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

(21 Jan) Premature (2014, Dan Beers)21
[ Teen sex comedies. Certainly one of the least critically acclaimed genres… But also often a big guilty pleasure. I mean, sometimes, after a couple of weeks of Oscar dramas, it’s nice to turn the old brain off. Plus “Premature” happens to put a somewhat original twist on the “American Pie” formula by borrowing the gimmick of “Groundhog Day” (or “Edge of Tomorrow”) and having the protagonist relive the same day over and over. Alas, Dans Beers’ film is nowhere near as funny and clever as “Groundhog” or “Edge”, failing to take full advantage of the premisce. And this may sound crass, but what’s with the almost complete lack of gratuitous nudity? Isn’t that the purpose of teen sex comedies? ]

(26 Jan) 1987 (2015, Ricardo Trogi)30
[ I wasn’t a fan of “1981”, which I found utterly lacking in story tension, dramatic weight and character development, with lots of retro-kitsch flourishes, but not much else. Still, I figured that sequel “1987”, which was a big local box-office hit and which earned no less than 8 Jutra nominations, might be better. Alas, it’s not, not at all. The main problem with these autobiographical movies remains that Ricardo Trogi had a totally ordinary, dull youth. So his alter ego, now 17, is not sure what to do with his life. All he really wants is to get laid and to get into bars, but it’s a bit of a challenge for his friends and him, who are pretty much total losers. That sort of sounds like “Superbad”, I guess, but that film was infinitely more insightful, involving and funny than “1987”, plus it starred the great Jonah Hill and Michael Cera instead of the sorry bunch of uncharismatic young actors here (Jean-Carl Boucher, Pier-Luc Funk, Laurent-Christophe de Ruelle, Simon Pigeon). I guess for some people, things like the 80s pop soundtrack, the old-fashioned clothes and whatnot are enough to make them feel nostalgic and have a good time, but not for me. I was deepy bored by things like the endless sequence where Ricardo works as a valet parking attendant and crashes a BMW, then goes to talk about it to four different persons, with no punchline in sight. The constant yelling of Sandrine Bisson as Ricardo’s mother didn’t do anything for me either. Ricardo’s “mafia” phase, stealing car radios? Inconsequential at best. And then at some random point, the film just ends. Meh. ]

(28 Jan) 3 histoires d’Indiens (2014, Robert Morin)66
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

(29 Jan) Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of (2015, Stephen Kijak)
[ This documentary alternates between the usual talking-head segments and archival footage, while also offering us a peek behind the scenes of the Backstreet Boys’ 2013 album “In a World Like This” and subsequent world tour, their first with the full original line-up in 7 years. Then, in some of the best parts, each of the five members returns to places from their youth, leading to some very emotional outpourings. Clearly, this was made for the fans, but I have a feeling that anyone watching this would have a newfound respect for this boy band. ]

(30 Jan) Félix et Meira (2015, Maxime Giroux)65
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

December / February