Monday, September 24, 2018

Home Video debut for Jean-François Richet's remake of Claude Berri's ONE WILD MOMENT

When Claude Berri's 1977 film Un moment d'égarement was first released in the USA (not until 1981), as TrustMovies recalls, it was not met with much enthusiasm from our cultural guardians. Its theme of inter-generational sex (as well as caring and connection) between an older man and the daughter of his best friend proved too much for our hypocritical taboos.

Now Jean-François Richet (of the Mesrine moviesBlood Father) and the remake of Assault on Precinct 13) has remade the original (which he's dedicated to M. Berri) with an updated version, also titled in English ONE WILD MOMENT. The good news: It is very well done indeed.

M. Richet, shown at left, has cast his movie extremely well, using two of France's most popular and talented actors in the "dad" roles -- Vincent Cassel and François Cluzet (shown above and below, with M. Cluzet on the right) -- and with two young, beautiful and talented new actresses in the daughter roles. Although the director (who also co-adapted, with Lisa Azuelos, Berri's original screenplay) more often makes crime movies, he clearly has a knack for comedy, as well. Richet's blending of the humorous and the heartfelt with that age-old generation gap and a nice touch of feminism is quite expert. Further, as funny and crazy as things get, he never allows them to reach the point of unreal.

One Wild Moment stays grounded at all times, thanks hugely to the performances of Cassel -- who proves lighter on his feet here than I have seen him in years; the actor is always good, but he's usually given darker roles to play -- and Cluzet, who gets the more unpleasant of the two dad roles and runs with it to completion.

The two daughters are played by newcomer Lola Le Lann (above) and Alice Isaaz (below). Both are excellent, though Ms Le Lann all but steals the entire film, thanks to her great beauty and a talent that is not far behind. She's a knockout in all respects, controlling the movie -- pretty much as she does Cassel's character -- with ease, grace, beauty, charm and a whole lot of willpower.

Because the sex is initiated via the girl and not the dad (who tries his best to resist, again and again), the carnality goes down a lot easier. And it would be hypocritical to imagine that young girls do not sometimes feel this attraction. Couple that to their usual sense of entitlement (particularly when they are as gorgeous as our heroine here) and you have a recipe for an eventual explosion.

How that explosion happens is brought to fine fruition by Richet and his cast. To his movie's credit, its aftermath is only suggested rather than insisted upon. One Wild Moment is yet another example of why and how the French handle the intricacies of oddball romance and sex better than just about any other culture.

Frem Under the Milky Way and running 105 minutes, the movie makes its U.S. debut via home video tomorrow, Tuesday, September 25, available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox, Microsoft, Vudu, Comcast, Cox, Charter, Spectrum, RCN and additional VOD platforms. 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Emma Thompson, superb as usual, in Richard Eyre and Ian McEwan's THE CHILDREN ACT

If you are looking for a movie full of ideas, excellent performances and situations that will move you and make you think -- without actually forcing you into some preordained box -- THE CHILDREN ACT may be exactly your cup of classy British tea.

As written by Ian McEwan (from his novel) and directed by Richard Eyre, the film probes subjects such as oddball religion beliefs, the law, justice, and most especially, what your responsibility is to someone whose life you have entered and irrevocably changed.

Mr. Eyre (Stage Beauty, Notes on a Scandal), a director of theater, opera, film and television, pictured at right, has had an up-and-down movie career, and this is one of his "ups," encompassing so much so gracefully that you may find yourself thinking about the film as much after viewing as during.

The film's main character is a noteworthy British judge named Fiona Maye, played exceptionally well by Emma Thompson (below), whose workload seem to concentrate most on cases involving children at risk. She soon finds herself embroiled in a case involving a family of Jehovah's Witnesses whose teenage son desperately needs a blood transfusion that the son and his parents all reject for religious reasons.

Simultaneously Judge Maye is going through a bad time in her sexless, emotionless long-term marriage to her University professor husband Jack (a tamped-down but still effective Stanley Tucci, below), who is about to embark upon an extra-marital affair. When the judge decides that she must meet with and question the son regarding his reasons for not agreeing to the blood transfusion, everything suddenly begins to change.

How and why this happens provides the meat of the movie, and, my, is there a wealth to chew on. All of it is held together via Ms Thompson's very strong performance -- which is spot-on moment to moment. The actress takes us through changes minute and major, allowing us to see clearly her character, flaws and all, helping us understand the reasons for each new decision that she must make.

In the pivotal role of the son, Dunkirk actor Fionn Whitehead (above) is even more remarkable here. He captures both the closed-off strength of the religious cult believer and then the strange, sad, buoyant freedom that can come via the release from that brainwashing. A word, too, must be said for the fine Jason Watkins, who plays the judge's aide, a kind, quiet fellow would clearly do anything for his boss yet is treated by her as something approaching the invisible.

What happens in the course of this thoughtful, deeply felt and surprisingly realistic film involves such sudden and life-changing events that even the possibility of these happening to our cast of characters offers more real nourishment that a year's worth of the overdone plots of mainstream soap operas. Viewers who insist on melodrama and cliché may go away unsated, but those who appreciate genuine feeling -- along with characters who struggle with right and wrong and all the stuff in between -- will come away from this film richly rewarded.

From A24 and  running 105 minutes, The Children Act seems to have opened here in South Florida one week prior to its originally scheduled playdate. It hit theaters this past Friday, September 21, at the Movies of Delray and Lake Worth, the Living Room Theaters, and the Tower Theater in Miami. Wherever you live across the country, click here to find the theaters nearest you. If you can[t find a theater close to you, note that the movie is also playing simultaneously via DIRECTV.

Friday, September 21, 2018

MUSEO: Alonso Ruizpalacios' follow-up to Güeros hits South Florida theaters today

When Güeros, the first-full-length film from Mexican writer-director Alonso Ruizpalacios reached U.S. theaters back in 2014, it looked as if a stunning new talent was upon us via this tale of disaffected Mexican youth told in a fresh and exemplary manner.

Ruiz Palacios (shown below) is back in 2018, with a new movie entitled MUSEO, which is again about disaffected youth. But here, that youth is lingering well into middle age.

Our "hero," Juan (also known derisively as "Shorty"), is a spoiled, entitled product of the Mexican bourgeoisie circa the mid 1980s.

As played with his usual sexy charm, coupled this time to more negative aspects of his character, by Gael García Bernal (below), Juan is quite the little asshole, as he and his partner-in-crime, Benjamin (Leonardo Ortizgris, two photos below) plan and then execute a whopping burglary (based on a real incident) involving a number of priceless artifacts located in a Mexican museum.

Folk who saw the recent hybrid documentary/narrative film, American Animals, should immediately note the similarities between the two. in which a heist of museum artifacts is attempted by some hugely unprofessional thieves. American Animals was pretty amazing: smart, beautifully acted, directed and written, with a wonderful combination of narrative characters and their actual counterparts in reality. It was thrilling, funny and bizarre, with a style that turned it into an art film without its even trying.

Museo, however, clearly wants to be an "art film," and so announces its intentions, as well as its themes and concerns, with a little too heavy a hand. It is certainly an interesting exploration of the Mexican culture of its time, along with the everlasting Hispanic ability to spoil its male children rotten, even as its makes clear (a little too clear) that we can rarely be sure of a person's true motives, including those we think we know best.

Ruizpalacios gives us a combo of history, philosophy, psychology, and a kind of heist thriller that would be much more thrilling had it been shortened by 20-to-30 minutes. Instead the movie just goes on and one and on, giving us an entire section devoted to a supposed "contact," a night club, and an over-the-hill performer (nicely played by Leticia Brédice) -- clearly someone on whom Juan has had a major crush -- that may be interesting but drains the suspense and pace rather crushingly.

Better is the scene with Simon Russell Beale (above, left) playing an international "fence" who must apprise our boys of the stupidity of their actions and expectations.

Clearly, Ruizpalacios had a much larger budget this time around (the credit sequence alone looks quite ravishing), but the spirit, freshness and life -- not to mention the ability to offer up so many ideas and themes so offhandedly yet strongly -- that inhabited Güeros has mostly gone missing. Well... next time!

From Vitagraph Films and running two hours and eight minutes, Museo opened today, Friday, September 21, here in South Florida -- in Miami at the AMC Aventura 24 and the Coral Gables Art Cinema, in Fort Lauderdale at the Cinema Paradiso-Hollywood, and in West Palm Beach at the Lake Worth Playhouse.  Click here and scroll down to find all the currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Pablo Solarz's magical THE LAST SUIT opens -- finally! -- in New York and Los Angeles

When The Last Suit (El último traje) opened here in South Florida -- seven months ago! -- it had a hugely successful run, remaining in local theaters for weeks. It is finally reaching New York City, Los Angeles and elsewhere around the country, so a re-post for this wonderful movie is necessary.

There's no way to know, I think, as THE LAST SUIT (El último traje) begins, and an old and infirm grandfather gets into a very funny and bizarre conversation with his favorite grand-daughter, just where in hell this movie could possibly be heading. Before long it turns into a road trip, peopled with a host of wonderful characters brought to life by a splendid cast. At heart, though, it is a family saga/memory piece, by the finale of which, you may find yourself, as did I, in a puddle of quiet tears that have been absolutely earned by every moment that has come before.

Made by Pablo Solarz (shown at left), the movie boasts a filmmaker who has had quite an interesting history so far --  from the lovely little surprise, Intimate Stories (which he wrote), to A Husband for My Wife, a script that has been made into a film three times already, in three different languages: Spanish, Italian and Korean.

With The Last Suit, which works beautifully in every one of its many aspects, and which Solarz both wrote and directed, I suspect that this relatively young filmmaker may have a hard time topping himself. If he does, TrustMovies dearly hopes he will still be around to see the result.

What makes this movie work so well is how filled it is with empathy and compassion. This is neither overdone nor all that apparent for awhile, however, because its main character, Abraham Bursztein, played by that crack Argentine actor Miguel Ángel Solá, above and below, who is so damned perfect in the role of the nasty-but-needy grandpa that, were this an American movie, he'd be an immediate shoo-in for an Oscar nomination (and probably the award itself).

If Solá alone were all the film had to offer, it might be enough, so thoroughly has the actor nailed the infirmities and obscenities of old age, rolling them into a performance that -- via its combination of wit, humor and glum reality -- keeps you at bay even as it forces you to enter and finally empathize with the life of this man.

Fortunately, Abraham either meets or is surrounded by character after character who may initially seem gruff and unpleasant (and who would not be when confronted by a guy like this?) but who, once some understanding of the man and his need kicks in, warms up and comes to his aid. This would include the young fellow (Martín Piroyansky, at left, above) unlucky enough to be seated next to Abraham on a plane,

and the hôtelière (Ángela Molina, above, left) from whom he tries to con a "reduced rate" on his hotel room. What a pleasure it is to see one of Spain's great actresses on view here -- and singing, too! Best of all maybe are two characters our not-quite-hero meets along the way who come to his aid in ways both expected and quite not.

The lovely Julia Beerhold plays a German woman of the post-WWII generation who tries with all her might to both heal and make up for the sins of the past. (See the wonderful documentary Germans & Jews for a further and deeper exploration of this.) How Ms Beerhold's character honors Abraham's wishes proves memorable indeed. His last helper, a hospital nurse played beautifully by Olga Boladz, above, is the final enabler in bringing to a close Abraham's journey.

Along that journey, memory plays a major role, and Solarz's ability to infuse his images (as above) with the same beauty and compassion he feels for all his characters is rather extraordinary. Is The Last Suit sentimental? You bet. But the sentiment here is so earned and welcome, and the tale told so filled with humor, surprise and deep feeling that the result is a road trip very much worth taking, while Mr. Solá's performance is an absolute don't-miss.

From Outsider Pictures , in Spanish with English subtitles, and running a near-perfect 86 minutes, the movie opens this Friday, September 21, in New York City at the AMC Lincoln Square and the Kew Gardens Cinema in Queens, and on Friday, September 28, in Los Angeles in Laemmle's Music Hall and Town Center 5. To see if it will be playing near you, simply click here and then click on IN CINEMAS on the task bar at top.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Lisa D'Apolito's documentary LOVE, GILDA tracks the career of a popular 1970s comedian

Gilda Radner was a very big name during the 1970s and 80s, appearing  regularly on Saturday Night Live (SNL) from 1975-80, doing her own one-woman show on Broadway, and finally appearing in some flop movies toward the end of her career. For fans of this popular comedian -- and there are many now in or approaching their senior years -- LOVE, GILDA, the new bio-documentary directed by Lisa D'Apolito, will probably be a "must."

Although Radner herself wrote a memoir, It's Always Something, which was published almost immediately after her untimely death from ovarian cancer in 1989, this new documentary should provide further insight ont and enjoyment from this funny, goofy gal.

Ms D'Apolito, shown at right, weaves a nice tapestry of archival photos and film/video, interviews with other comedians (often of the SNL ilk), friends and relatives who, together with the information gleaned from Gilda herself (she was quite prone to writing/diary-keeping) that provides a pretty decent look into the life and career of a special performer.

As to whether the movie will provide non-fans or younger generations unfamiliar with Radner (shown above and below) an understanding of what made the comic special, TrustMovies is not sure.

The snipits we see of her performing are so brief and all-over-the-place that those who don't know and love her various "characters" -- all or most from her SNL days -- may miss that special appeal. They are likely to come away from the film with more of a sense of how "problemed" she was rather than how funny she could be.

We learn about her various relationships (mostly failed) culminating in the one -- with actor/comedian Gene Wilder (above, right) -- that proved the best for her in terms of love, companionship and caring, if not perhaps creativity or artistry.

Among the celebrities interviewed are Melissa McCarthy (above), Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Chevy Chase and Lorne Michaels (below), each of whose remarks add to the sense of (mostly deserved) hagiography that consistently builds here.

Radner's life, at least as shown here -- plagued by eating disorders and the kind of low-self-esteem that she found it easiest to make fun of first, before others beat her to the punch (the kind of self-deprecating humor that current popular comedian Hannah Gadsby claims to have sworn off for good) -- was more sad than funny, something to be surmounted, rather than enjoyed.

From Magnolia Pictures and running 88 minutes, the documentary opens this Friday nationwide in a limited rollout. Here in South Florida, you can see it at the Lake Worth Playhouse, the Living Room Theater in Boca Raton, and the O Cinema, Miami Beach. Wherever you live, click here to locate the theaters nearest you.

Roger Michell's TEA WITH THE DAMES proves a "must" for fans of four great British actresses

Wild horses couldn't hold back fans of the four great actresses -- Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Eileen Atkins -- featured in the new documentary, TEA WITH THE DAMES from viewing this film. All four are indeed Dames (the female equivalent of British knighthood) and their storied careers are covered in some detail and depth in this 81-minute documentary directed by that fine journeyman filmmaker Roger Michell (Notting Hill, The Mother, Le Week-end). The film is non-stop pleasure for fans, of which this quartet has millions.
Mr. Michell, shown at left, makes himself mostly scarce as he records a get-together of the four (this sort of thing happens fairly regularly, we are told, as the women have been fast friends for deacdes now), during which the ladies -- sorry, Dames -- laugh, reminisce, bring each other up to date and finally dare to explore their somewhat limited future possibilities.

Michell and his foursome daren't go too deep. Whenever a sad or distressing subject pops up, there's a pause and we can see that a discordant chord has been struck, of which we may or may not already be aware -- the death of a loved one, a failed relationship -- but this is enough to bring us up short, before we move on to lighter topics.

There's a lovely intimacy to the movie, in which the women, of course, understand that they are being filmed. God knows, they're used to this and so can behave as close to "normal" as the viewer could desire. (That's Smith, above, and Atkins below.)

Ms Plowright (at left, below) has lost her sight (something TrustMovies did not know going into the film) and so proves the saddest of the lot. Not that she herself perhaps feels so sad, but it is she, perforce, who does the least here, and that cannot help but make the viewer sad, given all her fine performances that we remember.

The documentary is shot through with archival photos and snippets of some of the actresses stage, screen and TV work, and this proves an utter delight. Seeing Dench (below) performing as a young woman will make some Americans wish that we'd grown up in Britain, just to have been able to see so much more of her (as well as the others') sterling work.

The in-and-out/past-and-present editing (by Joanna Crickmay and Anthony Wall) is first-rate, and the movie bounces along at a good pace. By the time the women break out the champagne, you'll feel as if you could join right in, so intimate, enjoyable, sometimes even memorable -- that's Smith receiving her "Damehood" from Queen Elizabeth, below -- has been this afternoon "tea."

If America has four comparable actresses with this much exceptional work behind them (and some in front of them, one hopes), particularly in legitimate theater, I can't imagine who they are. Even our Meryl pales in comparison.

From IFC Films and Sundance Selectsthe documentary arrives in New York City this Friday, September 21, at the IFC Center and the Quad Cinema, and then the following Friday, September 28, it hits Los Angeles at Laemmle's Royal. Here in South Florida, it opens Friday, October 5 in Coral Gables at the Bill Cosford Cinema, in Miami Beach at the O Cinema, and in Boca Raton at the Living Room Theater. If you're not near these locations, don't despair: The film will hit VOD next Thursday, September 27.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Judy Greer's directorial debut, A HAPPENING OF MONUMENTAL PROPORTIONS, opens

I am hard pressed to think of another actor whose performances over 21 years -- 129 of them, according to the imdb, and generally in supporting roles most often of the comedic variety -- have garnered her such good will (at least among movie-goers like me) than Judy Greer.

From Jawbreakers and Three Kings through Cursed, The Descendents and the recent Measure of a Man plus countless TV shows, Ms Greer, shown below,  has proven consistently interesting, reliable, funny and smart. When TrustMovies learned of her directing debut via a film entitled A HAPPENING OF MONUMENTAL PROPORTIONS, he was both excited and expectant.

The stellar cast Greer is working with, too, could hardly be bettered and includes Common, Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney, Jennifer Garner, John Cho, Katie Holmes, Kumail Nanjiani and Keanu Reeves. (Mr. Reeves does not appear until movie's end, but his scene -- taking place mostly in a very colorful restaurant men's room, pictured at bottom -- proves bizarrely memorable.)

So: What's not to like? Let's start with the movie itself, which, although Ms Greer, who has directed well enough to pass muster and has most of her actors achieving as consistent a tone as possible, is working here with a screenplay written by Gary Lundy (below) that pretty much sinks the best intentions of the rest of the cast and crew.

What exactly was Mr. Lundy going for, I wonder? Some kind of satire of American society, hypocrisy, the current workplace and our school system, perhaps? If so, the result is slipshop and half-assed. The plot is undercooked, while certain characters -- the school administrator played by Rob Riggle, for instance -- are overdrawn and banged home with a vengeance.

To note but a single joke gone wrong: the suddenly deceased gardener with the name "Kevin," which of course in the Los Angels area where the movie takes place is so wrong, since all gardeners must be Hispanic. The idea may be funny but given the Lundy/Riggle combination, it is repeated so often, long and loudly that what would have been clever once or twice is instead done to death.

Greer and her very able cast try to put the spin of reality (occasionally hyper-reality) onto this mess, but the script and characterization keep upending them.

There are dead moms aplenty, the school's career day in which parents participate, a workplace coffee machine that gets sabotaged, adultery and its payoff, possible suicide, father-daughter/father-son tsuris and other assorted situations, none of which quite work for either comedy or pathos (and especially not for credibility) but instead begin to make us feel real sadness for the performers caught up all this, especially Common, who works particularly hard as a single dad trying to please his daughter while doing his job, as well as his assistant, played by Ms Garner. (The actor is shown above, left, with Mr. Whitford, who plays his nasty new boss, and below, right, with Storm Reid, who plays his sweet, intelligent daughter.)

Along the way there are some funny and/or enjoyable moments, as well as decent performances, too. But the tale told is too often too nonsensical to hold water yet not nearly clever enough for decent satire. Perhaps I am missing the point that screenwriter Lundy is trying to make -- is he just going for something goofy? -- or don't understand or appreciate the style he's using to accomplish it. But I'd have to call this one a misfire of monumental proportions.

From Great Point Media and running 82 minutes, A Happening of Monumental Proportions opens this Friday in a limited run of theaters across the country. In New York City, it will screen at the Cinema Village, and in the Los Angeles area at both the Laemmle Monica Film Center and the Ahrya Fine Arts