vineri, 31 mai 2019

Booksmart, written by Katie Silberman - 8.6 out of 10

Booksmart, written by Katie Silberman
8.6 out of 10

The first film directed by the reputable comedian Olivia Wilde is a success.

From Variety to The Guardian, through other newspapers and magazines, the reviews and ratings have been exhilarating...

'In this year's class of first time feature directors, Wilde handily earns the title of Most Likely to Succeed'

Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein contribute decisively to the triumph of the comedy, in the main roles of Amy and Molly respectively.
They are helped by the seasoned Jason Sudeikis as Principal Brown, Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte.

Amy and Molly are best friends and they have been spending their time in high school studying and preparing for future outstanding careered.
Furthermore, Amy would travel to Botswana, Africa, providing with this project that she is an accomplished, generous, brave, gritty and dedicated young woman.

Their school mates do not seem to bother too much about learning and they seem to regard the two stars with a - high? - degree of superiority, perhaps contempt in some cases.
The feeling may be mutual.

For the two protagonists think that while they have placed duty above all else, to the exclusion of amusement it appears, the rest of the crowd will just fail in their endeavors.
However, when they ask around, the party animals are all going to prestigious universities.

The only case where this is not true is yet another tremendous story, for this nerd is so good that Google has decided to recruit him before anyone else poaches him.
Molly thought that Yale is only for her, since she is the one who had worked hard, while the others had fun.

Only it isn't.

Hence the conclusion:
We need to have a glorious time, presto!

Pack it all in, compressing time and jubilation.
There are plenty of laughs for they don't manage to attend The Party, the place where, like in the ominous comedy with Peter Sellers, everyone is reaching Nirvana, with elephant, bubbles and all.

Indeed, in one stage, they are diverted to the 'gig' hosted by Jared.
But they are the only couple of guests, with the exception of another, weird presence, a girl that decides to jump off the big yacht.

Jared is extremely wealthy, it seems, but not very popular...
He would be, in so many other places though.

On their way to various false leads, they meet Principal Brown, who has to top his small salary.
Amy may have a lesbian affair, after she has a fight with Molly.

Or it may all end in a comical, somewhat awkward scene.
Almost all the narrative is scintillating and wonderfully pleasing.

Country Strong, written and directed by Shana Feste - 8.4 out of 10

Country Strong, written and directed by Shana Feste
8.4 out of 10

Critics disagree over the merits and/or flaws of this motion picture.
Overall, the average score is not favorable, as it stands at 45 out of 100.

The nominations for the Academy Award and the Golden Globe are for the Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song.
Indeed, music is at the center of the feature.

Albeit, if you are not a fan of country music, you must be aware that this is...

Country Strong

And if we ad to this the association that we could make between country music and Trump land, liberal viewers, such as the undersigned, would be skeptical from the start.
Yet, the film has some definite, strong merits.

One of the most important would be the performance of the charming, talented Leighton Meester as the upcoming singer Chiles Stanton.
Gwyneth Paltrow is professional, solid in the leading role of Kelly Canter, but her image is so much associated with Goop, arrogance, ridicule that the perception of the acting is badly affected.

Kelly Canter does have a powerful message 

Love is all that matters! Or words to that effect.

She is giving advice to the young Chiles Stanton, after being jealous and mad with the rising talent, when she is allowed to sing one of the Canter mega hits.

A winner of Grammy and other awards, Kelly Canter is now on a path of self destruction.
An alcoholic out of a rehabilitation clinic, the country singer is indulging again in this terrible addiction.

Married to James McGraw, who is also the manager of the country music concerts and her musical career, records, Kelly is infatuated with Beau Hutton.
Beau is yet another country singer, who tries to rescue the drunk from herself.

An interesting dynamic evolves.
We could see it as a menage a trois, plus the husband.

Only it is more complicated, as the inebriated star has sex with others and she seems beyond redemption.
There may be hope though for Chiles and Beau, if the latt is not terminally affected by his relationship with Kelly.

Some Like It Veiled aka Cherchez la Femme, written and directed by Sou Abadi - 8.4 out of 10

Some Like It Veiled aka Cherchez la Femme, written and directed by Sou Abadi
8.4 out of 10

Although there may be absolutely no chance that you get to see this one of the multiple channels available, except if you somehow have TV5 among them, this modern, relevant comedy is worth seeing.

Well…maybe that stamen was wrong, for given what fundamentalists are prone to engage into, when they feel their ridiculous egos and exaggerated views are offended, on both extreme sides of the spectrum, from the Trump lunatic supporter to the Muslim ayatollah, this feature should be off limits for them.
Felix Moati is the star of this show and his performance as Armand and then Scheherazade is brilliant, vibrant and effective, for it keeps the film going and the audience amused.

Without taking shots at Islam – well, maybe just occasionally and with a light touch so that the extremists do not feel the rage that caused the abominable acts committed at Charlie Hebdo and elsewhere – the movie does use satire to highlight eccentricities, absurdities that plague the Taliban and others like them.
Leila is the heroine of the motion picture and she is the sister of Mahmoud, the young man who takes the loss of his parents so hard that he looks for refuge within religion…fundamentalist religion.

He is taking the teachings in the Koran literally, probably with the wrong angle – for instance, it is stated that jihad meant something else in the original texts, something like a struggle with oneself, an effort to become better, more generous, worthy and the sense attributed by modern day Horsemen of the Apocalypse are dead wrong when they see it as an invitation to wage war.
Mahmoud becomes ever more extreme in his attitudes, taking the view that he is the absolute master of the house – an angle which seems to be uncontested alas by most Muslim men – and his sister must do what he tells her and in this phase, that means she must abandon pleasures, eventually modern life altogether.

Armand is the son of Iranian immigrants, people who had initially opposed the tyranny of the shah Pahlavi, only to see him replaced by the even more deplorable ayatollah Khomeini, a lunatic who has dragged Iran to the dead end where it is even today, facing another fool, orange Trump.

When the hardened, bearded Islamist finds that his sister is seeing, dating Armand, he is infuriated and pushes the man to the floor, demanding from his sibling extreme obedience and to forget about seeing this representative of the devil – who is always tempting weak people…not with those words.
Armand has a very clever, if dangerous idea and he becomes a sort of transvestite, wearing the chador to hide the fact that he is a man, knocking at the door of the flat where his lover lives and pretending to be a devoted Muslim woman, in search of help from Leila.

The latter is revolted by this appalling dress, for this is France, a free democratic country where women do not have to obey their foolish, sexist, ridiculous abusive husbands, bothers and other relatives, on the contrary, laws prevent the wearing of the niqab and other religious outfits in schools or institutions and the face must not be hidden by the all covering clothes.
However, Mahmoud is very attracted by this very religious female, who seems to share his exaggerated views, for when asked about her voice, she states that she is actually hiding it, for every respectful Muslim woman has to keep away from men, hide her looks and avoid tempting the ‘Muslim brothers’.

To be able to know about religion, Armand borrows from the library a series of books, which, when discovered by his mother would cause great chagrin and distress, for the poor parent thinks that her son is becoming an Islamist, whereas he just tries to find a way to see his lover.
The satire and educational message of the film is extraordinary, for the extremist who would torture gay people, becomes infatuated with…a man, albeit unconsciously, for he thinks he has found the perfect woman, modest, covered from head to toe, instructed in the sayings of the Koran…the woman to marry.

There are many amusing, tense moments, when the fundamentalist uses an ax to break the door of his sister’s room, where Armand is hiding, the friends chase the poor disguised lover through the streets, the faceoff between the family of Scheherazade and the suitor.
That dialogue is superb, for the family of the ‘girl’ are Muslim, but of the Shia conviction, which is specific for a minority, but the state dogma in Iran, while Mahmoud and his gang are Sunni…by the way, this has been the cause of bloodshed and the main reason why Saudi Arabia and its allies are in a cold war conflict with theocratic Iran and its proxies in Yemen and elsewhere.

Love conquers all!

Mahmoud is willing to do anything the alleged father of the ‘woman’ he loves is asking of him, including a change of doctrine, from his Sunni to the Shia interpretation and even declares his allegiance to Ali or whatever descendant of the prophet that the would be father in law demands.
When he is asked to bring in one hundred camels, he is at frits overcome by the impossible task, but then, when they say that they may be imported from Argentina, he agrees.

luni, 27 mai 2019

The Mothman Prophecies, based on the book by John Keel - Seven out of 10

The Mothman Prophecies, based on the book by John Keel
Seven out of 10

If you search the internet to find more about the statement made by the filmmakers that their story is based on real events, you find that the novel inspires it and the truth…well, that is hard to establish.

Richard Gere plays John Klein, who is a journalist for The Washington Post in the film, whereas the one who participated at the events in real life had an assignment with Playboy magazine.
The journalist has a car accident and his wife dies shortly after it, although she would visit him later, from the other world.

One night, as he drives his Audi, the hero has car trouble and walks to a house nearby to find help.
This is the home of Gordon Smallwood, who is not pleased to hear someone at the door, late at night.

Furthermore, he has a shotgun and threatens to use it for he maintains that this same person had been there before.
When the local police officer arrives, Gordon Smallwood aka Laura Linney, Gordon states that he has had enough:

This man had been here in the middle of the night
At 2 a.m., he had come to wake me up…

John Klein is kept in the shower, with a shotgun pointing at his chest, but he maintains he has no idea about the claims.
However, when he is driven by the kind Connie Mills to the small town, he finds that he is Point Pleasant.

At the motel, he is asking about the location of this place on the map and he is told that it is near the border…

The journalist is looking on the map, near the demarcation line where he thinks he could be…
However, he is astonished to find he was searching for the town in a very different area, far from the place…

John Klein had been driving for about 600 miles (was it 600?) without having any recollection.
If we look at the subject, the propositions of this motion picture, he had not driven, anyway.

The Mothman carried him and the car through the air or an alternative dimension, perhaps a parallel world.

Point Pleasant is not that accommodating and enjoyable when we find that people have nightmares and see things.
Once case in point involves two young lovers, who are enjoying themselves in the car, when the Mothman comes.

Another example is the premonition, in fact, we should say premonitions that are confirmed.
One informs whoever wants to know that there would be something important with 99 and 9.

Flight 9 crashes and 99 people are killed.

Most people would dismiss this kind of thing as just coincidence and we can find various ‘prophecies’ if we believe in the Mothman and other such theories…
In fact, not even the presence of an outstanding actor, Alan Bates, cannot save this production.
The idea that there are things, phenomenon that are beyond our understanding is natural and it makes sense.

Nevertheless, to assume that there are ‘creatures, apparitions, mothmen’ and other such illusions is rather preposterous.
These only exist in the minds of those who see them.

duminică, 26 mai 2019

Falling in Love by Michael Cristofer - 8.8 out of 10

Falling in Love by Michael Cristofer
8.8 out of 10

Somehow, although this is a notable motion picture, it seems to have passed rather unnoticed.

If we look at the leading stars, Meryl Streep and Robert de  Niro, with Harvey Keitel in a supporting role, the near absence of coverage is even more intriguing.
Meryl Streep is Molly Gilmore, married to Brian Gilmore, and Robert de Niro is Frank Raftis, also married, but to Ann Raftis.

To begin with, the protagonists commute with the same train, in the opening scenes, they use telephones that are next to each other.
This is the primeval period, when mobile phones had not yet been omnipresent.
As Christmas is approaching, Frank and Molly buy gifts for their spouses, family and friends and they cross paths again, in a library.

Just as they both reach for the exit, they knock each other's numerous bags to the floor.
They begin the complicated operation of sorting what has fallen from whose baggage.

At their respective homes, Brian finds that his gift is a book on gardening and Ann that she now has the chance to learn about sailing.
You have guessed what has happened.

When they meet again on the train, Frank and Molly talk to each other.
But Falling in Love may not happen suddenly.

They act with caution, respecting their spouses and their families.
If anything, these two characters seem to have been too reluctant to engage with each other.

The message of this film seems to be:

If you Fall in Love, do not hesitate!
No matter what, grab this unique chance and do not lose the rare opportunity 

On the other hand, studies - and common sense perhaps could indicate that - have found that separation and divorce are not caused by affairs.
This is a case of mistaking the effect for the cause.

When love and affection are almost dead, or at least comatose, then extramarital relationships are the result.
Albeit the main characters fall in love with each other, they think they cannot commit adultery.

And they don't, alas.
Not for a long time.

And maybe they never will.
For reasons of spoiler alert and perhaps because I am not so sure,we can leave it at that.

Us, written and directed by Jordan Peele - 8 out of 10

Us, written and directed by Jordan Peele
8 out of 10

Perhaps you need to be a fan of horror movies to thoroughly enjoy this one.

Albeit, critics have loved this motion picture, giving it a big Metascore ...81 out of 100.
RogerEbert thought it flawless with a maximum of 100 points, while Variety gave it 70, both out of 100.

For this cinephile, Get Out, created by the same Astounding Jordan Peele worked better.
Yes, the idea that we are our worst enemies is interesting.

Placing it at the enter of a horror movie is even more challenging, for there is meaning in a narrative that generally is all about blood, terror and extreme emotions...

Or isn't it?

My daughter tells me I did not get it, if I am not overawed by this.
There are symbols, it's all so clever.

Maybe when it will be aired on HBO, and I will see it again - if I will decide it is worth another 100 minutes - was it? - of my time- I will see the glory of Us.

Until then, We are fighting Us, but without the overall effect of Get Out.

Heat, written and directed by Michael Mann - 8.7 out of 10

Heat, written and directed by Michael Mann, 
8.7 out of 10

Heat has been acclaimed as one of the best, 'most intelligent crime-thrillers to come in years' by Variety, Austin Chronicle and The Los Angeles Times, all of which thought the movie perfect, with a score of 100 out of 100, while Newsweek and others have also been thrilled, rating it at 90 or thereabouts.

The public seems to think this is on the list of best motion pictures of all time, placed at 123.
And yet, this not perfect.

Not 100 out of 100, if you ask me.
Perhaps this in part because of the high expectations that have accompanied this feature from the moment I first learned about it.

One rule of position psychology seems to be - lower your expectations.
Or I have read about Heat in a French magazine, where it was treated like it was the treat of the century.

Al Pacino meeting Robert de Niro was supposed to be Hermes meeting Apollo, Vishnu against Shiva, Putin versus, forget the last, which is more in the vein of Master and Servant.

Alas, Al Pacino seems to be exaggerated, self indulgent, over the top in the role of lieutenant Vincent Hanna and the lines of his character are not too convincing in some, perhaps most, circumstances.
Take the meeting he has with an informer, expecting at least a potential lead in the robbery case.

It seems false and the indications that this is such a brilliant detective that he caught the needed information as it was flying through the air looks fabricated and hard to believe.
But the main problem is the attitude of Al Pacino.

He looks like he is putting a show.
Arguably, that is the idea.

For he is acting for us, only it is not supposed to be so evident.
We are meant to think that we are learning the story of villains, victims, fools and heroes, not watch this strange actor misbehave.

Of course, he is doing the right thing...think about the fact that Variety, Newsweek and other prestigious publications have printed reviews which pertain that this is a perfect or near perfect performance.
It is the opinions expressed here that is flawed.
In my defense, I can only bring circumstantial evidence and even that would just highlights some minor potential defect of Pacino the man.
First off though, I must say that I admire his early, more subdued, reflective, restrained, introspective performances in The Godfather, Serpico, even Bobby Deerfield.

We can learn about his behavior on the set from Adventures in the Screen Trade, by the regretted Williams Goldman.
Robert de Niro, Val Kilmer and the rest of the cast are excellent.

The film is notable, albeit someway too long at 170 minutes.