with the bold text in the example below:

Friday, May 30, 2014

Friends with Kids by Jennifer Westfeldt, 2011 (R)

with Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids), Chris O'Dowd (The Double, Bridesmaids), Kristen Wiig (Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2, Bridesmaids, Date Night, How to train your dragon), Jon Hamm (Bridesmaids, The Town, Mad Men), Megan Fox, Edward Burns (Alex Cross), Lee Bryant, Kelly Bishop

Best friends Jason and Julie decide that the way to have kids without sacrificing their social lives or careers is to raise a child together platonically. But romance and other complications interfere with their perfect plan.

It starts off full of clichés, ends full of clichés, but the middle part is actually quite surprising, with relationships you feel are real and complex, and somehow it works to make you watch the whole movie. I wasn't big on the two main characters, but the rest of the cast is impeccable, Jon Hamm first in line with an explosive monologue.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

The Past - Le Passé by Asghar Farhadi, 2013 (PG-13)

with Bérénice Bejo (The Artist), Tahar Rahim (Un Prophete), Ali Mosaffa, Pauline Burlet, Elyes Aguis, Jeanne Jestin, Sabrina Ouazani (Of Gods and Men - Des Hommes et des Dieux, Inch'Allah), Babak Karimi (A Separation - Jodaeiye Nader az Simin), Valeria Cavalli
from the director of A Separation (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin)

When Iranian Ahmad returns to France after a four-year separation from his French wife, Marie, he discovers that she now has a boyfriend -- and that behind her difficult relationship with their daughter lies a secret from the past.

The first hour is mesmerizing. The unraveling of the past takes perhaps a little too long not to feel like "hey, here's another trail to follow!". The topic and the different perspectives on it, from the adolescent to the employee, to the 5 years old kid, to the ex-husband, to the mother (I am not revealing anything...) is quite interesting interesting. The performances are good, very anchored in what France is nowadays, there is an honest feel to the way it is directed, very human, which is what is best about the movie. And Elyes Aguis is most promising, with one of the best performances I have ever seen of a 5 years old in such a complex environment.

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Blood Ties by Guillaume Canet, 2013 (R)

From the director of Little White Lies - Les Petits Mouchoirs and Tell No One - Ne le dis à personne

When 50-year-old Chris is released from prison, his younger brother Frank, an up-and-coming member of the police force, welcomes him with open arms. But when Chris has trouble staying straight, Frank is trapped between duty and family.

Canet just went by the book for his first American movie. He chose carefully his cast with an interesting combination of great actors from Europe, and the up-and-coming actors from here, as well as one mainstream actors, to wrap up an amazing list. Then, the script is intelligent, and we follow it in a very conventional way, there are no mistake in the directing, the cinematography... Finally, the editing makes the story interesting, no crazy pursuit, no wild special effect, but you can feel there is a budget behind. I believe he made a very new yorker movie, in a very French way of doing it. It's really good, but unfortunately, American channels classified it immediately as indie... Was American Gangster indie? No, and the two movies have a lot in common. So why? Perhaps I should write an article on how European cinema is systematically classified as Indie when coming to the USA, in a way that it kills it in the box-office automatically. It is sad, because somehow, mainstreams most of the time are lacking of what the indie movie have, depth.

with Clive Owen (Shadow Dancer, Duplicity, Killer Elite), Billy Crudup (Eat Pray Love), Marion Cotillard (The Immigrant, Little White Lies, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Contagion, Midnight in Paris), Mila Kunis (Black Swan, Date Night), Zoe Saldana (Out of the Furnace, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Words, Avatar), Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bones, Bullhead), James Caan, Noah Emmerich (Warrior), Lili Taylor 

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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit by Kenneth Branagh, 2014 (PG-13)

with Chris Pine (Star Trek Into Darkness, Unstoppable, This Means War, People Like Us), Kevin Costner (The Company Men, Man of Steel, The Bodyguard), Kenneth Branagh, Keira Knightley (Seeking a Friend for the End of the world, Anna Karenina, A Dangerous Method, Never Let Me Go, Love Actually)
From the director of Thor and Sleuth

CIA analyst Jack Ryan tries to thwart a terrorist plot to bring down the U.S. economy in this action-thriller helmed by Kenneth Branagh. Chris Pine plays the title character alongside an all-star cast that includes Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley.

For some reason, the enemy being is Russia is back in fashion in Hollywood, but anyway, the actors are so good you get into the story, it flows well, the story is catchy, and that makes up for a good spy movie of the good old days (of course Tom Clancy's book is probably helping the script to be solid). And even if Kenneth Branagh evolved from Hamlet to Thor (!?!), this one at least doesn't feel like a joke.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Two Lives - Zwei Leben by Judith Kaufmann and Georg Maas, 2012

with Juliane Köhler (Aimée & Jaguar), Liv Ullmann (Persona), Sven Nordin, Ken Duken, Julia Bache-Wiig, Rainer Bock (War Horse), Thomas Lawincky, Klara Manzel, Vicky Krieps, Dennis Storhøi, Ursula Werner

Europe 1990, the Berlin wall has just crumbled: Katrine, raised in East Germany, but now living in Norway for the last 20 years, is a "war child"; the result of a love relationship between a Norwegian woman and a German occupation soldier during World War II. She enjoys a happy family life with her mother, her husband, daughter and granddaughter. But when a lawyer asks her and her mother to witness in a trial against the Norwegian state on behalf of the war children, she resists. Gradually, a web of concealments and secrets is unveiled, until Katrine is finally stripped of everything, and her loved ones are forced to take a stand: What carries more weight, the life they have lived together, or the lie it is based on?

This movie is brilliant, complicated, intense, and at the same time effective and beautiful, interesting, unpretentious... The characters are complex but the acting is so perfect you understand their complexity and learn to love them. The story is of course tragic, with a context that unfortunately is much too real, with the Nazism and the post-war Germany, so it is not a comedy, and intelligent script replace special effect and heavy action, so don't expect mainstream spy movie. And still, I really believe this is a movie worth watching by all audiences.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Immigrant by James Gray, 2013 (R)

with Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy, Avengers, The Hurt Locker, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol), Marion Cotillard (Little White Lies, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Contagion, Midnight in Paris), Joaquin Phoenix (Her, The Master), Dagmara Dominczyk, Angela Sarafyan, Antoni Corone (I Love You Phillip Morris), Ilia Volok, Dylan Hartigan

After arriving in New York, Polish immigrant Ewa must provide for her ill sister -- and soon falls under the thumb of charming thug Bruno, who forces her into a life of prostitution. But when she falls for a magician, her fortunes may turn.

Consider it a romantic drama with pieces of American history, and you will be served... Nothing of a masterpiece, the characters are very obvious, the roles are very define, and even Marion Cotillard who tries hard to play the role of a woman with major ethical contradictions is simplified to a victim determined only for the sake of her sister. The discontinuity of her behavior makes it quite unbelievable, and the story becomes irrelevant, sad.

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Ray by Taylor Hackford, 2004 (PG-13)

Jamie Foxx portrays rhythm and blues legend Ray Charles, who rose from obscurity to become world famous despite losing his eyesight at age 6, a hardscrabble upbringing, repeated struggles with racism, romantic letdowns and his own heroin abuse.

What I love about the movie is the combination of amazing music, and the incredible journey that has been the life of Ray Charles. If is filled with choices, definition of right and wrong over the course of a century, how someone can define his own existence, and somehow change the life of so many other, become a symbol of what a man can overcome, without ever making it a cliché or a perfect American story. It follows him in a way that is human, and never looses this perspective. Beautiful. And Jamie Foxx has in it the performance of his life.

with Jamie Foxx (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Django Unchained, Valentine's Day), Kerry Washington (Django Unchained), Regina King (Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, Enemy of the State), Clifton Powell, Harry Lennix (The Matrix Revolutions, Man of Steel), Bokeem Woodbine (Total Recall), Aunjanue Ellis, Sharon Warren, C.J. Sanders, Curtis Armstrong, Richard Schiff (Man of Steel, Solitary Man), Larenz Tate, Terrence Howard (Lee Daniels' The Butler, The Company You Keep, The Princess and the Frog, Dead Man Down), David Krumholtz, Wendell Pierce

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The Double by Richard Ayoade, 2013 (R)

Simon is a timid man, scratching out an isolated existence in an indifferent world. He is overlooked at work, scorned by his mother, and ignored by the woman of his dreams. He feels powerless to change any of these things. The arrival of a new co-worker, James, serves to upset the balance. James is both Simon's exact physical double and his opposite - confident, charismatic and good with women. To Simon's horror, James slowly starts taking over his life. Jesse Eisenberg plays the dual roles of the timid office worker and his charismatic doppelganger in this cinematic adaptation of a Dostoevsky tale.

I usually like these kind of movies, but the threshold is that is has to have the humor of the absurd, or at least not make me suffer for too long with the evidence of the situation. This movie is so serious and so obvious that it becomes boring and painful to watch. The ambient is quite similar to the one of Jean Pierre Jeunet movies, perhaps with a feel of 1984, which is great at the beginning. The storyline is interesting (if the movie were shorter), the absurdity and darkness of the movie has a point, but you have to have to courage to see for an hour and a half inactive Jesse Eisenberg and asshole Jesse Eisenberg having a trip of their own.

with Jesse Eisenberg (Now You See Me, The Social Network, To Rome With Love, Solitary Man), Mia Wasikowska (Lawless, Albert Nobbs, Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are All Right, Amelia), Wallace Shawn, Noah Taylor, Yasmin Paige, James Fox, Cathy Moriarty, Phyllis Somerville, Sally Hawkins (Blue Valentine, An Education, Never Let Me Go), Chris O'Dowd (Bridesmaids), Craig Roberts

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Matrix Revolutions by Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski, 2003 (R)

with Keanu Reeves (The Matrix, Constantine), Laurence Fishburne (Contagion, Man of Steel), Carrie-Anne Moss (Pompeii, Fireflies in the Garden, Chocolat, Snow Cake), Hugo Weaving (Captain America, Cloud Atlas), Jada Pinkett Smith, Mary Alice, Harold Perrineau, Monica Bellucci (Remember Me, My Love - Ricordati di me, Asterix and Obelix Meet Cleopatra, The Whistleblower), Harry Lennix (Man of Steel), Lambert Wilson (On connaît la chanson - Same Old Song, Of Gods and Men (Des Hommes et des Dieux), Nona Gaye, Anthony Zerbe, David Roberts, Tanveer K. Atwal
Sequel of The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded

The final installment in the Matrix trilogy finds an unconscious Neo trapped in a subway station in a zone between the Matrix and the machine world. Trinity and Morpheus fight to free him, but a powerful enemy complicates their mission.

I just did a Matrix marathon, a little upside down, so I saw the end of Matrix Reloaded, not the beginning, then Matrix Revolutions, and finally the Matrix. Of course, I had seen it before so it didn't bother me. I have to say Matrix Reloaded has some good points, but having finally understood Matrix Revolutions, I can at last say I really love the whole trilogy (The Matrix will still be my favorite...). Anyway, surprisingly, after more than 10 years later, the movie is still really well done, still current, and I love the universe they created for the characters, between the grunge underground, and the sleek and elegant Matrix universe. A Classic trilogy.

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Pompeii by Paul W. S. Anderson, 2014 (PG-13)

with Emily Browning (Sleeping Beauty), Kit Harington (Game of Thrones), Carrie-Anne Moss (Fireflies in the Garden, Chocolat, The Matrix, Snow Cake), Kiefer Sutherland (Melancholia), Jessica Lucas, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Thor 2: The Dark World, Killer Elite), Jared Harris (The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Lincoln, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Mad Men), Sasha Roiz, Currie Graham

Set in 79 A.D., this is the epic story of Milo, a slave turned invincible gladiator who finds himself in a race against time to save his true love Cassia, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant who has been unwillingly betrothed to a corrupt Roman Senator. As Mount Vesuvius erupts in a torrent of blazing lava, Milo must fight his way out of the arena in order to save his beloved as the once magnificent Pompeii crumbles around him.

Besides the interesting detachment from any biblical or religion, making mother nature the ultimate power with no existential reason, and us human really futile whether good or bad, the story told before the volcano takes over is terribly told, with no real political or social content, Emily Browning is as cheesy and you can get (sad, she was so interesting in Sleeping Beauty), the bad characters are really bad, the good ones are really good people, there is no psychology, what you see is what you'll get for the rest of the movie. How sad considering how interesting the culture of Pompeii was, and the relationship between Rome and them.

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Ghostbusters by Ivan Reitman, 1984 (PG)

Bill Murray (The Monuments Men), Dan Aykroyd (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Behind the Candelabra), Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Sigourney Weaver (Galaxy Quest, Snow Cake, Avatar), Ernie Hudson (Miss Congeniality, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous), William Atherton, David Margulies, Annie Potts, Jennifer Runyon

After losing their academic posts at a prestigious college, a team of parapsychologists creates a business exterminating ghouls, hobgoblins and supernatural pests -- and are soon hired by a cellist to purge her digs of a demon.

This movie is very funny. And crazy... what an imagination, what a weird ending... if you are in search of any scientific theory, forget it, this is absolutely unrealistic. Never the less, between the three Ghostbusters and Sigourney Weaver, they are so into the story that you wind up believing it. Isn't that the magic of cinema. The special effect are a little outdated, but it is still fun to watch after 30 years.

watch trailer:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

La Vérité si je mens ! (Would I Lie to You) by Thomas Gilou, 1997 (NR)

with José Garcia (Now You See Me, Asterix at the Olympic Games, Trouble Every Day), Richard Anconina, Aure Atika, Anthony Delon, Sabrina Van Tassel, Richard bohringer, Gilbert Melki (Côte d'Azur - Crustacés et coquillages), Amira Casar, Bruno Solo, Vincent Elbaz, Elie Kakou, Adriano Wajskol

In this hit French comedy, jobless loner Eddie Vuibert (Richard Anconina) gets a lucky break when a rich Jewish entrepreneur mistakes him for a Jew and gives him a sweet job in the Parisian fashion district. Awash in champagne, fancy cars and beautiful women, Eddie finds himself hanging by a thread as he fakes his way through Sephardic culture and the fashion industry. Scene-stealing José Garcia co-stars as Eddie's clowning pal Serge.
This is a classic comedy, in France. The sense of humor, the inside look into the Jewish community in the Sentier, the business, the wittiness, and the feeling the actors had a good time. It has a beautiful love story, the soundtrack was a blast... Of course, fifteen years have past and some of the fashion is outdated but overall, it is still a funny movie to watch. Now I wonder how New Yorkers for instance would receive the movie, or actually anybody outside of France...

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mean Girls by Mark S. Waters, 2004 (PG-13)

with Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams (To the Wonder, The Vow, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Midnight in Paris, Morning Glory), Tina Fey (Date Night), Tim Meadows, Amy Poehler, Ana Gasteyer, Lacey Chabert, Lizzy Caplan (True Blood, Masters of Sex, 127 Hours), Daniel Franzese, Amanda Seyfried (In Time, Chloe), Jonathan Bennett

After growing up abroad, brainy teen Cady Heron moves to Chicago and haphazardly joins her new high school's most powerful clique. But there's hell to pay when the ex-boyfriend of the clique's menacing leader shows interest in being Cady's guy.

How did this movie become a reference of teen movies? The cast is impressive, with actresses which now are filling our big and smaller screens, the story is cruel enough, but there is so much cheesiness to it that it cannot be right. Even the meanness is not really mean, it is what we expect of mean. And the half hour lecturing at the end was too much... Unbelievable... Thanks for Amy Poehler's character who helps not take it too seriously....

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Premiere impromptu in New York City - April 24, 2014

Sorry for posting the pictures so late, a little impromptu encounter, on our way out of the MoMA heading to the subway.

Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man / Peter Parker

Jamie Foxx as Electro / Max Dillon

Sally Field as Aunt May

Chris Cooper as Norman Osborn

Louis Cancelmi as the Man in Black Suit

Pharrell Williams scores the movie with Johnny Marr (The Smiths) and Hans Zimmer

and last but not least, Marc Webb - funny name for the director of Spider-Man...

We've always known that Spider-Man's most important battle has been within himself: the struggle between the ordinary obligations of Peter Parker and the extraordinary responsibilities of Spider-Man. But in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Peter Parker finds that a greater conflict lies ahead. It's great to be Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield). For Peter Parker, there's no feeling quite like swinging between skyscrapers, embracing being the hero, and spending time with Gwen (Emma Stone). But being Spider-Man comes at a price: only Spider-Man can protect his fellow New Yorkers from the formidable villains that threaten the city. With the emergence of Electro (Jamie Foxx), Peter must confront a foe far more powerful than he. And as his old friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), returns, Peter comes to realize that all of his enemies have one thing in common: OsCorp.

with Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Colm Feore, Felicity Jones, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Embeth Davidtz, Campbell Scott, Marton Csokas, B.J. Novak, Louis Cancelmi, Chris Cooper

Thursday, May 1, 2014

On connaît la chanson - Same Old Song by Alain Resnais, 1997

There will be no more new Alain Resnais movies...

with Pierre Arditi (Granny's Funeral - Adieu Berthe), Sabine Azéma, Jean-Pierre Bacri, André Dussollier (Aïe, Tell No One, My Worst Nightmare - Mon Pire cauchemard), Agnès Jaoui, Lambert Wilson (Of Gods and Men, The Matrix Revolutions), Jane Birkin

When Parisian businesswoman Odile (Sabine Azéma) needs a new apartment, her sister Camille (Agnès Jaoui) offers the services of her lover, real estate broker Marc (Lambert Wilson). Soon the trio, along with several admirers and former lovers, gets swept up in various romantic entanglements. Alain Resnais directs this romantic comedy that features the characters singing along to a host of French pop songs.

My favorite is Same Old Song, because perhaps of the context I saw it in, back in 1997 when it came out. I was really in the mood for a movie, and there were these Tuesday nights deals where you could see movies for a lower price. It was late and I ran fast to catch the last session of Godzilla, very popular at the time. I arrived and it was sold out. So I picked the only other movie I could see, Same Old Song. I was late so I had to seat front row to the right, with a very weird perspective on the screen. The movie just had started and a huge swastika appeared on screen. I thought I had made a mistake since this was a contemporary french musical I was supposed to watch. Then Agnès Jaoui appeared, and then fainted. I got right into the movie. (I love Agnès Jaoui...) And the movie developed, in a very smart way, the songs entering and leaving smoothly, the thesis on « les chevaliers paysans de l'an mil au lac de Paladru », the embarrassing André Dussollier, the amazing cast overall, I had a blast. I never saw Godzilla (perhaps time to catch up with the new one coming up...)

watch trailer: