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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Brave by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, 2012 (PG)

with Kelly Macdonald (The Girl in the Cafe), Emma Thompson (Men in Black 3, An Education, Love Actually), Billy Connolly, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters, Eilidh Fraser, Sally Kinghom
Duration: 93 minutes

Scottish princess Merida uses her archery skills to establish her independence, but when she accidentally angers the ancient land's three powerful lords and is granted a poorly conceived wish by a witch, she must go on a quest to repair the damage.

Nominated at the Oscars 2013 for Best Animated Feature Film (WON)

Finally a Walt Disney movie that showcase a woman who doesn't need a man to make her story better. The choice isn't really appealing anyway... But still a major statement that you can make a story that ends well with someone who is just not ready to settle, who can become who she wants to be without the help of a man, as nice and helpful he can be, and finally end with all options open still (basically not making her undesirable or lonely just because she didn't find yet the one she loves). Ok, spoiler there, but anyway, maybe it will convince some to watch it. This is definitely breaking a serious pattern. The movie is cute, dynamic, with a little bit of humor, not lecturing for an adult and with good values for kids. Definitely not the best Disney but at least a statement.

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dan in Real Life by Peter Hedges, 2008 (PG-13)

with Steve Carell (Crazy Stupid Love), Juliette Binoche (The English Patient, Breaking and Entering, Chocolat, Paris, Copie Conforme), Dane Cook, Alison Pill (To Rome With Love, Milk), Brittany Robertson, Marlene Lawston, Dianne Wiest (Rabbit Hole), John Mahoney, Norbert Leo Butz, Emily Blunt (Wild Target, The Adjustment Bureau, The Five-Year Engagement, Your Sister's Sister, Looper), Jessica Hecht (Fair Game)

In this romantic comedy from director Peter Hedges, advice columnist and widowed father of three Dan Burns meets a new woman who's beautiful and smart -- but she also happens to be the girlfriend of Dan's brother, Mitch.

This was the first movie of Steve Carell that made me like the actor. I was always wondering if he could play something else than light blockbuster comedy. This movie is not small, it has a solid cast, quite some comedy to it, but somehow the director managed to give the movie a depth that is very much unique, and make the character of Dan more than a fool, an ordinary man lost in his responsibilities of single dad, targeted by the rest of the family as the lost child, and for some reason falling for the wrong person. But besides the discomfort of some of the situations, the movie remains very much human and intelligent. I guess Juliette Binoche helped quite a bit in turning the movie into more than a comedy, but the duet really works. 

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Kiss Me (Kyss mig) by Alexandra-Therese Keining, 2011 (NR)

with Ruth Vega Fernandez, Liv Mjönes, Lena Endre, Krister Henriksson, Joakim Nätterqvist, Thomas Ljungman, Josefine Tengblad, Björn Kjellman
Duration: 105 minutes

While celebrating her own recent engagement, Mia travels to the Swedish countryside to attend the engagement party of her estranged father. When she meets her soon-to-be stepsister, sparks fly and Mia finds herself unexpectedly falling in love.

Kiss Me is a Swedish movie, which you can guess by the lack of color from beginning to end in the cinematography. Ok, this is some sort of cliché, but this one matches it. Besides this, it reminded me of another sort of "Imagine Me and You", same plot, more or less, or was it closer to "I can't think straight"? Perhaps the scene coming out of school, or them on an isolated getaway, I do not know, but the movie ressembles strangely. Except that it is very serious, oh yes. Mia is this very serious and tormented person, everyone around is having serious conversation. No one laughs. Anyway, the plot sounded more promising with a family drama surrounding the relationship between the two stepsisters, but not really, everything seems to solve itself without further complication. I believe the ending was the apotheosis of a banal film, with one running to the airport after the other, and ending up in the most romantic place to start over. Hum... Too bad, because the chemistry between the actresses really worked, the acting is impeccable and the landscapes and cinematography, despite its greyness and tidiness, is absolutely beautiful.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Secrets (Ha Sadot) by Avi Nesher, 2007 (R)

with Fanny Ardant, Ania Bukstein, Rivka Michaeli, Michal Shtamler, Adir Miller, Guri Alfi, Alma Zak, Tiki Dayan, Dana Ivgy, Talli Oren, Sefi Rivlin

At an all-female seminary in the Israeli holy city of Safed, brilliant Naomi (Ania Bukstein) befriends rebellious Michelle (Michal Shtamler), but their friendship is tested when they meet a sickly Frenchwoman named Anouk (Fanny Ardant) who needs their help. Risking expulsion, Naomi and Michelle embark on a journey of self-discovery as they secretly study kabbalistic texts, learning cleansing rituals that will aid the mysterious Anouk.

It has been a while that I found a movie that could tell me a story of courage. And cowardice. This movie is the Orthodox Jew version of Iranian movie "Circumstance". There are differences, such as the story, the context, the identity, the journey... but at the end of the day, it is for the same reason that they get together, love, and follow the same path in the relationship. It is touching, powerful, the two girls are beautiful, Ania Buckstein is astonishing in her performance. The only negative point, and that might be only in case you speak French, is Fanny Ardant's lines, they are like heavy quotes, no one speaks like that, it looks so overdone, overdramatic, really fake. And I love Fanny Ardant... This time was too much. Anyway, besides the failure of incorporating French language, the movie is absolutely touching.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

War Horse by Steven Spielberg, 2011 (PG-13)

with Emily Watson (Fireflies in the Garden, Breaking the Waves), David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup (Farewell, Un Prophete), Tom Hiddleston(Thor, Avengers, Deep Blue Sea), Jeremy Irvine, Benedict Cumberbatch (Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy), Toby Kebbell, David Kross (The Reader), Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), Nicolas Bro, Rainer Bock, Patrick Kennedy, Leonhard Carow, Celine Buckens
Duration: 146 minutes

Adapted from a novel by Michael Morpurgo, this majestic World War I drama centers on Devon lad Albert and his steadfast horse, Joey, whose faithful bond cannot be shaken -- even when Joey is sold to the cavalry and sent off to France.

It is an interesting construction of the plot. For a very natural reason, we are always attached the good human being. In this movie, our feelings get challenged and perhaps manipulated into getting to know and love the horse more than the humans, but still, the humans remain our center of attachement, just because they are good to the horse. The other exercise that the movie does is the make you more and more confused about which side are the people, so you get equally attached to the German boys, the British captain, the French jam maker and his granddaughter, the German animal caretaker, the British and the German on the field trying to get the horse out of the wire, everyone from every side who turned out to be good to the horse.
It is beautifully shot, perfectly acted, with a great sense of action, the only upsetting thing is the music and the forced emotions into making you cry, while the story is so futile, in the sense that at the end of the day, it is just one horse, so many more have died, so many humans have died. The movie turns out to be a strange fairy tale, an out of context story, as beautiful as it is...

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Summer of Love by Pawel Pawlikowski, 2004 (R)

with Nathalie Press, Emily Blunt (Wild Target, The Adjustment Bureau, The Five-Year Engagement, Your Sister's Sister, Looper), Paddy Considine, Dean Andrews, Michelle Byrne, Paul Antony-Barber, Lynette Edwards, Kathryn Sumner

Mona is tired of her working-class roots, and Tamsin is bored with her pampered lifestyle. When their opposite worlds collide unexpectedly, the girls sense an immediate attraction. But can their unusual friendship survive their differences?

I saw this movie for quite some time in the queue, or recommended, but finally realized the main actress was the really mainstream Emily Blunt, so I got curious. There is in lesbian movie genre a very limited choice of good quality productions, which at this point in time as still very much indie movies. Alright, having said that, let's go back to the movie. The acting is really good, truly convincing from the three main characters, the two girls and the converted ex-con brother. The set is very simple, with an attempt to be at the same time raw but stylized. It reminded me in more than one way of "Fish Tank" where the most rebellious kid is also at the same time the most innocent, the less exposed to the game of power. It really surprised me in many way, perhaps because it is not so much a romantic movie than it is about social classes in England, about mentalities. It really made a point, even if it is a pessimistic one. Strong movie.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Prime by Ben Younger, 2005 (PG-13)

with Uma Thurman (Bel Ami), Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady, Marvin's Room, It's Complicated, Julie and Julia, Kramer Vs. Kramer), Bryan Greenberg, Jon Abrahams, Zak Orth, Annie Parisse, Aubrey Dollar, Jerry Adler, Doris Belack, Ato Essandoh

Newly divorced businesswoman Rafi is surprised at how quickly love finds her again in the form of young artist Dave, her polar opposite. But Rafi's soon dismayed to learn that her shrink is also her lover's disapproving mother.
Duration: 106 minutes

I saw it when it came out, in 2005, I guess i was the age of the guy in the movie, and not as experienced... I also was still living in France at the time. I found the movie a bit stupid, forced into being comical, the only two saving scenes were Meryl Streep and her Q-tips theory, and the ending, which was unusual and interesting. I never wanted to watch this movie again, there were so many more interesting one in the horizon. 
Then it turned out that I actually had to see it again last Saturday. So I was expecting a bad movie. To be more fair to the experience, I would say there were things that were far worse, such as the fashion, my goodness, she is supposed to be a fashion photographer, and her outfits are outrageous, hopefully that wasn't the fashion in 2005!! Then, now that I live in New York, I was shocked by the representation of the kid's lifestyle, from the upper east side but living in the lower east side, with a gangsta style and going to all the touristic places you could imagine to eat, go out, shop... Anyway, the summum of it was the chicken noodle soup romantic dinner, this is something that could only come from LA, romanticizing the idea of New Yorker getting sick. Aside from that, I really liked Meryl Streep performance, she definitely saves the movie from collapsing really deep, and the grandma with the pan kind of guide for Dave. Now also, I am older than the guy, and actually in the relationship with someone way older, giving me some perspective on the story, which is quite realistic. And I still find the end original, mature. Which leaves me with a better feeling than last time.

watch trailer:

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life by Joann Sfar, 2010 (NR)

with Eric Elmosnino, Lucy Gordon, Laetitia Casta, Doug Jones, Anna Mouglalis, Mylène Jampanoï, Sara Forestier, Kacey Mottet Klein, Razvan Vasilescu

Eric Elmosnino stars as Serge Gainsbourg in this foreign-language biopic about the life and career of the famed French singer-songwriter who, as a young Jew, survived the Nazi occupation of Paris and went on to create controversial music.

This is an interesting story of Serge Gainsbourg, with a fantastic view of his life, so it wouldn't be taken too seriously. Elmosnino plays convincingly that ugly man that every women were falling in love with. The cast of women is quite incredible, although I have to say that the two that really made a point were Anna Mouglalis as Juliette Gréco, and Laetitia Casta as Brigitte Bardot. Lucy Gordon looked like Jane Birkin but there was something off about her, maybe because she reminded me too much of her other character in Les Poupées Russes (Russian Dolls)... Anyway, it is a good recalling of the great songs of Gainsbourg, with an interesting reconstitution of the 50s to the 90s.

Watch trailer:

Assassin in Love (The Baker) by Gareth Lewis, 2008 (PG-13)

with Damian Lewis (Homeland), Kate Ashfield, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Throne), Dyfan Dwyfor, Anthony O'Donnell, Steve Speirs, Brian Hibbard, William Thomas, Michael Gambon, Robert Page, Philip Howe

A sleepy village in the country seems like the perfect hideout for a failed assassin (Damian Lewis) who's trying his best to avoid his angry employers. That is, until the locals assume he's the new baker they've hired, and promptly put him to work. Forget what he might have been asked to do in the past ... this new gig is no piece of cake. Michael Gambon and Kate Ashfield co-star in this quirky comedy with plenty of bite.

It is strange to watch a movie from a few years back with the actors from the leading series of 2012, probably the reason why it ended up on TV now. It is a Welsh comedy about a reconverted killer in a remote town, with characters coming from a movie of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, actually, it has something to it even in the aesthetic... but the sense of humor is definitely British, or Welsh. It turns out to be also a romantic comedy, but in the end, it truly is a silly movie.

Watch Trailer:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

You Will Be Mine (Je te mangerais) by Sophie Laloy, 2009 (NR)

with Judith Davis, Marc Chapiteau, Fabienne Babe, Cécile Laloy, Ondine Desfosses, Lucie Bourdeu, Julien Pabion, Isild Le Besco, Edith Scob, Christian Bouillette, Johan Liberau, Alain Beigel

Economic circumstances force Marie, who is studying piano at a conservatory, to move in with Emma, her childhood friend. Emma fascinates, dominates and devastates Marie, who is torn between her desire for Emma and the urge to escape.

I found it an interesting theme, with educated attractive people, a perfect cinematography... but don't expect to be a sensual movie, or full of action. It is a very slow movie about two women living together as flatmates, one madly in love with the other, while the other one need only freedom. It is a bit over-dramatic, and seriously dark, it reminded me in a way of "With a Friend like Harry...", almost suffocating, except that it stays in the realism, with absolutely no sense of humor to relieve it.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Nowhere Boy by Sam Taylor Wood, 2009 (R)

with Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Albert Nobbs), Thomas Sangster (Love Actually), Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Bel Ami, Salmon Fishing In Yemen, Leaving), Anne-Marie Duff, David Morrissey, Ophelia Lovibond, Josh Bolt, Sam Bell, Andrew Buchan
Duration: 98 minutes

Raised by his aunt since he was a young boy, charismatic teen John Lennon is reunited with his mother, which ignites a bitter battle between the two sisters for John's affections. Along the way, John befriends fellow Liverpool lad Paul McCartney.

Interesting bio of John Lennon, with a focus on his teenage years, reconnecting with his mother, dealing with a society that for him was backward, rejecting school, going through a journey through music into the first years of his musical career, right before the Beatles. The soundtrack is I believe the best part, with a great compilation of the music of the 40s and 50s. Then, the cinematography portraying Liverpool of the 50s is another great element, made me feel nostalgic of a time that I never knew, but grew up with because the fashion of that time had a revival in the 80s and early 90s, but also because everything is so well documented that the trip to time really operates successfully. I mustn't forget the actors, not only because I am a reliable fan of Kristin Scott Thomas acting, but because the ensemble is really interestingly portrayed, you even forget at some point that these are not the actual Paul McCartney and John Lennon, and start imagining them as the (extra)ordinary boys that they might have been before becoming hugely mainstream.

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