Friday, September 5, 2014

THE NOVEMBER MAN


 Espionage thriller

PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
Pierce Brosnan: CIA agent Peter Devereaux
Luke Bracey: his protegé David Mason
Bill Smitrovich: Peter’s former CIA boss John Hanley
Olga Kurylenko: valuable witness Mila Filapova
and lots of others

REVIEW
At the risk of giving away anything, this film could easily become the text book example of spy clichés for any up-and-coming movie producer since it includes the following:
  • Former CIA agent lured out of retirement
  • Suspicious mole in the agency
  • Beautiful, intelligent heroine
  • Shoot-outs
  • Car chases through busy city streets
  • Hand-to-hand fight scenes
  • Huge explosion behind the unflinching hero
  • Unscrupulous and evil high-ranking antagonist
  • Convoluted, confusing and completely unfathomable
But for all that it lacks the basic premise of any good movie: a well told story. Characters are not well fleshed out so we’re left to try and figure out who is doing what to whom and why? And there are far too many side stories including several explicit scenes of gratuitous sex. 

CLASSIFICATION
for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and drug use.

FOR NITPICKERS ONLY
When Peter is talking with John his watch shows it to be 4:25 when they sit down. After just five minutes or so they are about to depart and his watch is now 4:55.

P.S.
Even the title is confusing and makes no sense. Apparently it refers to Peter’s nickname when he was an active CIA agent because "when he blew through nothing lived." Really now, is that what November is all about? 

Friday, August 29, 2014

THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY



PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
Om Puri: Papa Kadam
Manish Dayal: his oldest son Hassan
Charlotte Le Bon: Marguerite, a sous-chef
Helen Mirren; Madame Mallory, proprietress of an upscale restaurant

REVIEW
This charming movie about people trying to make the best of their lives is not entirely original. But that does not take away from some fine performances (notably Helen Mirren and Manish Dayal) nor the lovely setting in Southern France.

Perhaps a little too predictable, it is still pleasant enough to watch with enough humorous moments to keep the tone light and easy.

CLASSIFICATION
for thematic elements, some violence, language and brief sensuality.


YOU’RE SLEEPING NICOLE



Original title: Tu dors Nicole
In French with English subtitles


PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
Julianne Côté: 22-year-old Nicole
Marc-André Grondin: her older brother Rémi
Francis La Haye: JF, the band drummer
Simon Larouche: Pat, the band bass guitarist
Catherine St-Laurent: Nicole’s best friend Véronique
Godefroy Reding: 10-year-old Martin

REVIEW
Boring. This one-word-synopsis pretty well says it all.

Showing snippets of her boring summer spent at home, this episodic glimpse at the life of Nicole goes nowhere. Shot in boring black and white, my guess is the script was written on the back of a beverage coaster and probably took less time to complete than consume the aforementioned beverage.

Not only is there no plot, the “events” have been dredged from similar movies so there’s nothing new to be seen. It is just barely watchable, mostly to see if something does happen. At the risk of giving away too much I’ll not say more but you can guess.

CLASSIFICATION
for brief sexual situations.

Friday, August 8, 2014

BOYHOOD






PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
Ellar Coltrane: 6-year-old Mason
Patricia Arquette: his mother Olivia
Lorelei Linklater: Mason’s 8-year-old sister Samantha “Sam”
Libby Villari: Mason’s grandmother
Ethan Hawke: Mason’s father
Marco Perella: Professor Bill Welbrock
Brad Hawkins: Jim, an Afghanistan/Iraq War veteran
Jenni Tooley: Mason Sr.’s new girlfriend
Zoe Graham: Mason Jr.’s new girlfriend

REVIEW
The thing that sets this apart from all the other movies about growing up is the unconventional method used: the same four principal actors play their role during the 12-year period it took to film. Usually actors who look like their younger counterparts are brought in to advance the story.

Episodic in nature, about every two or three years there is another series of events centering around the lives of the four. But the passage of time occurs without warning: from one scene to the next they have aged. Snap! Just like that.

Another thing that sets this one apart from most movies is its length: with a running time of 166 minutes following the usual trailers means a three-hour viewing session. Not everyone has that much time to spend watching a film.

The acting is uniformly good although the kid’s parents are the best of the bunch.

CLASSIFICATION

for language including sexual references as well as for teen drug and alcohol use.

A MOST WANTED MAN




PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
Philip Seymour Hoffman: Günther Bachmann, head of an anti-terrorist team
Nian Hoss: his assistant Irna
Grigoiry Dobrygin: Issa Karpov, an illegal immigrant
Rachel McAdams: civil rights lawyer Annabel Richter
Homayoun Ershadi: Dr. Faisal Abdullah, Muslim philanthropist
Willem Dafoe: Tommy Brue, banker
Robin Wright: C.I.A. officer Martha Sullivan 


REVIEW
True to fashion, this spy-thriller makes it difficult (impossible?) to figure out who is lying and who is telling the truth, who is covering up and who is not. Heading up the cast with a remarkable performance (one of his best ever) Hoffman leads us through the murky world of bad guys (and the murky world of good guys too) as he pushes his own agenda against some very strong resistance.

Without the usual car chases, the fisticuffs and general mayhem so often seen in movies of this sort, the film requires some mental commitment on the part of the viewer. But it is worth the effort.

CLASSIFICATION
 for language.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

IDA

In Polish with English subtitles




F.Y.I.
World War II began with the German invasion of Poland in September 1939. More than 6 million Polish citizens died during the war. In 1944 a Soviet-backed Polish provisional government was formed as a satellite state of the Soviet Union. Renamed the People’s Republic of Poland this Marxist-Leninist government was not overthrown until the Revolutions of 1989.

PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
Agata Trzebuchowska: 18-year-old novitiate nun
Agata Kulesza: her Aunt Wanda
Dawid Ogrodnik: Lis a saxaphone player

REVIEW
It has all the earmarks of an art film aimed at a small niche market:
  • no costly celebrity actors
  • modest sets, no expensive special effects
  • fairly short, shot in black and white

In addition, to set it apart from mainstream blockbuster films, it was filmed in the so-called Academy ratio, the squared-off aspect ratio of 35mm film that went out of style with the introduction of widescreen movies back in the ‘50’s.

It is a simple story with the principal cast member having very little to say: her near-silent character relies upon facial expression and a dozen lines to tell her side of the story so there’s very little acting required for the role. The pacing is ponderous, slow and the outcome often predictable. 

This one is certainly not for everyone.

CLASSIFICATION

 for thematic elements, some sexuality and smoking.

Monday, June 30, 2014

OBVIOUS CHILD




PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
Jenny Slate: part-time comedian Donna Stern
Jake Lacy: an unlikely bar patron Max
Gabu Hoffman: Donna’s BFF Nellie
Gabe Liedman: their friend Joey
and others no doubt

REVIEW
I am not a big fan of humour that relies upon getting laughs about day-old female underwear and intimate details about the stand-up comedian’s sex life. And from the opening scenes it is apparent the patrons of the sleazy smoky bar are of the same opinion as no one laughs. Other than that the jokes are of the potty-mouth variety including reference to noisy bodily functions, the sort of gags that appeal to 5 and 6-year-olds.

Given that the film is promoted as a romantic comedy the comedy side is practically nil. As for the romance it is basically a one-night stand and there’s not a lot of romance in those type of encounters. So that aspect is practically nil as well.

It didn’t take long before I realized this is a big waste of time so I walked out.

CLASSIFICATION
 for profanity, sexual situations, crude humour.