Sunday, February 22, 2015

Two Days, One Night

           This is a polarizing film as you either are absorbed by the simplicity of the story or you are bored to tears. Either way, one thing all can agree on is that Marion Cotillard shines in this working class drama.

           The Dardenne Brothers have written and directed a fascinating story of a woman faced with an unenviable problem. The factory where she works has seventeen workers and its been decided by management and a vote by all that she will be laid off or no one will get their annual bonus.  Ms. Cotillard convinces her boss to do another ballot unbiased by the supervisor.  She has the weekend to visit each co-worker individually to get them to vote for her to keep her job.

               The film is fascinating in it's  simplicity. Each visit is a microcosm of emotion and politics.  It is a film devoid of sex, violence or big action scenes. It resonates in the nuanced little moments of each visit. It is also a very realistic story that stays true to itself to the very end.

                Ms. Cotillard carries the film on her back and her performance justifies her Oscar nomination for Best Actress. She inhabits her role like a second skin without a false note and as with most of her films, she is just a pleasure to watch.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service

      Director Matthew Vaughn continues his winning ways of successful graphic novel/comic adaptations bringing "Kingsman" to life on the big screen. One part James Bond adventure and one part spoof of the genre, "KIngsman" is an action packed, fun popcorn flick.

       Starring as the suave proper British spy, Harry Hart, Colin Firth inhabits a role unlike anything he has ever done.  He's a great deal of fun to watch, especially in a massive brawl that takes place in a church. The fight choreography is fantastic in this well staged scene of mayhem and Mr. Firth is at the center of it. Actually, all of the stunt work and fight scenes are pretty terrific throughout the film.

       Mr.Firth's protege is Taron Egerton in his first major role. Mr. Egerton has the good looks and personality to take him far in his acting career. He is clearly having fun in his role as Kingsman's newest recruit. Speaking of fun, Samuel L. Jackson is also having a blast as the over the top villain with his own schemes for world domination. And his henchwoman, Giselle, makes for a unique but classic opponent for our heroes. If you've seen the trailer or posters for the film, you will recognize her unique features immediately and the CGI and stunt work for her character is stunning.

        Rounding out a perfect cast is Michael Caine as the head of The Kingsmen, who always adds a touch of class to any film and Mark Strong as "Merlin", the tactical agent usually behind the scenes but here gets into the thick of it as well.

        There is lots of action and self effacing humor but the film does tend to overstay its welcome. Fifteen or twenty minutes of editing would have kept the pace fast and loose without some dead spots. Overall, though, it's a fun romp for a winter's day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Jupiter Ascending

       From the wild and crazy Wachowski siblings ("The Matrix") comes this new science fiction disaster. They manage to rip off plot points from "Star Wars", "Dune", "The Fifth Element", "The Wizard of Oz" and almost every sci-fi film ever made. It is unoriginal, boring, has no cohesiveness to the visuals and will go down as one of the worst films of the year, if not the decade. 

        I can't imagine what Channing Tatum was thinking? Pointy ears, a strange haircut, boots that make me roller skate in space, cheesy dialogue....yeah, sign me up for that. And poor Eddie Redmayne, following up a wonderful film like "The Theory of Everything" with this embarrassment, you really have to feel for the guy. And of course the "star" of the film, Jupiter herself, Mila Kunis, has found a way to take bad acting to a new low level. 

        There are only two scenes in the film that will hold your attention (and thankfully there is no dialog). A chase high above the city of Chicago and the climactic battle are actually exciting and will wake you from the nap you've been taking for two hours

          Ms. Kunis spends a great deal of time cleaning toilets in the film. If she makes more films like this, she will be ready for her new career.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Black Sea

             Jude Law stars as the captain of a salvage submarine looking for lost Nazi gold at the bottom of the Black Sea. World War Two submarine movies have always been fascinating and exciting but a film about a ragtag team of Russian and British mercenaries looking for a big score lacks the gravitas of "Das Boot" or  "Run Silent, Run Deep".

             The only real enemy here is the paranoia and jealousy between the men themselves. It's only a matter of time, given the confined space and working conditions that stress cracks begin to show. Who will crack first and to what extreme? What will be the ripple effect on the rest of the crew? The answers come slowly at first and build to a fairly exciting climax.

               Mr. Law does his best to be the tough but fair captain but the lure of the gold eventually affects him as well. The film has it's moments of suspense but there too many dead spots and obvious plot points. It's a solid B cable movie that will probably sink pretty quickly at the box office.

Monday, February 02, 2015


Guest Critic- Master Duncan "Donut" Sanford

  “Paddington” was really funny.  He made me laugh a lot during the movie.  He got into trouble a lot, but he didn't mean to. Sometimes that made people mad.  Some of the parts that made me laugh a lot were when he flooded the bathroom, and rode down the stairs in a bathtub!  

    Paddington traveled from Peru to London, to try to find a family. He found a temporary family, but made the dad mad a lot. The mom and kids were trying to help Paddington find a family, but they really wanted him to live with them. 

    The movie was sometimes sad because Paddington’s home in Peru was getting destroyed by an earthquake and his uncle died. Paddington snuck onto a boat to go to London all by himself which was sad, but also was funny because he ate a lot of orange marmalade and it made his tummy really big.

    Paddington liked to hide a sandwich in his hat, which ended up saving the day. But I won’t tell you how, so that you can go see the movie and find out for yourself.

    I didn't want to see this movie at first because there was a gross toothbrush scene, but I’m really happy that I saw it, because it’s really funny. 

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Human Capital

    This is an interesting new Italian drama that charts a collision of classes from different perspectives. A traffic accident late at night involving a motorist and a cyclist sets things in motion.

     The story is broken into chapters that present events from the perspective of Dino, a middle-class Realtor, his daughter Serena, and Carla, the wife of a rich businessman. Carla's son Massi is dating Serena and when her father drops her off at Massi's palatial estate their lives become entwined in unforeseen ways.

     Changing perspectives is an intriguing plot device that has been used before in many films dating back to Rashomon. The drama unfolds like a mystery with more elements revealed in each chapter. The acting is good, particularly Valeria Bruni Tedeschi as Carla and Fabrizio Bentivogolio as Dino.

       It's a nice change of pace from the usual Hollywood winter "deadwood" this time of year.