Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Blue Room (La Chambre Bleue)

In The Blue Room (La Chambre Bleue), Writer/Director Mathieu Amalric stars along with Co-Writer Stéphanie Cléau as a man trapped by his own sense of responsibility for the result of his adulterous behavior. 
The film is a noir portrait of guilt told out of linear time sequence in response to the main character’s interrogation by the police for a crime about which we learn the details only gradually.  

The problem with this storytelling device is that, if it is kept up for too long, the audience begins to lose interest, especially if the hero is not particularly likeable.  Unfortunately, that is the case, here.

By the time the facts of the case are out and the only remaining question is, “Did he do it or not?”, we don’t really care.  He was complicit enough and, since he feels it, as well, there is no reason to be upset about his wrongful punishment.

The pace and script are just not sufficiently strong for The Blue Room to merit more than a 2+ out of 5.

Monday, September 29, 2014


Director John Curran’s Tracks is a brilliant film, tracing the real-life heroic adventure of Robyn Davidson, who trekked 1,700 miles across Western Australia over a period of nearly 9 months in 1977.

Haunted by the suicide of her mother and the “putting down” of her dog, when Robyn was a young girl, she entered her mid-20s as a loner.  It was then that, in some respects, emulating her father, who had trekked an African desert as a young man, Robyn truly wanted to get away from it all.

Marion Nelson’s sparse, but excellent screenplay quickly details the nearly two year period of Robyn’s learning how to break and handle wild camels, which are strangely plentiful in that region of Australia.  Then, thanks to a grant from National Geographic Magazine, she sets off on her journey to the Indian Ocean with 4 camels and her dog Diggity.

Mia Wasikowska is awesomely wonderful as Robyn and is worthy of every possible accolade for her Splendid performance. 

Adam Driver is, also, excellent as the photographer from National Geo, who meets her several times along her odyssey and ends up falling in love with her. 

But, as good as Driver’s character is, we empathize with Robyn, when she asks a stranger how one tells a really nice guy that you want to kill him if he doesn’t leave you alone.  That’s because the film is at its best, when Mia and her animals are on their own, being captured, wonderfully, in magical landscapes by Cinematographer Mandy Walker.

Though Robyn crosses a dry land, there is nothing dry about this fabulous film.  Young women, especially, will be moved by the ingenuity and determination of this true heroine.

I give Tracks a 4+ out of 5.

The Skeleton Twins

Writer/Director Craig Johnson’s The Skeleton Twins is a sad story of two adult siblings, who are still haunted by the suicide of their father.

The film opens with Milo (Bill Hader) slitting his wrists in a bathtub in L.A. while, in upstate New York, his twin sister Maggie (Kristen Wiig) is contemplating swallowing a handful of pills.  She is only stopped by the news of her brother’s suicide attempt.
When Milo, who hasn’t seen his sister in 10 years, comes to New York to live with Maggie and her husband (Luke Wilson), the secrets of both siblings are revealed.

The film is most notable for showing Hader and Wiig can play drama, as well as comedy.  Yet, the best moment is their comic lip-sync parody of a pop song.  You can see a bit of it in the trailer.  In fact, you can see the best-of The Skeleton Twins in the trailer.  Unless, of course, you’re up for a downer.

I give The Skeleton Twins a 3+ out of 5.

Misunderstood (Incompresa)

Italian filmmaker Asia Argento has directed Misunderstood (Incompresa), a fine depiction of a misunderstood adolescent girl, growing up in 1984 Rome. 
Aria (Giulia Salerno) is the 9-year-old daughter of an Italian film star (Gabriel Garko) and a classical musician (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who are both too narcissistic to care for each other much less the child they had together.  What love they do have is given to the daughters each had from previous marriages.
When the volatile couple breaks up, Aria is shuttled back and forth from mother to father, depending on their particular whim.  The only way the young girl can survey is to eventually fantasize their caring.  But, that only leads to an attempted suicide attempt.  Or, was that a fantasy, as well.

Although the above sounds dark, I must tell you I had a smile on my face throughout. Giulia Salerno is a real find and she and her friends, thanks to Argento, gave a wonderful depiction of children of the ‘80s.

I give Misunderstood (Incompresa) a 4 out of 5.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Equalizer

Director Antoine Fuqua’s The Equalizer bears little resemblance to the television series from which it was supposedly derived.  But, that’s not a bad thing.  Just deceptive.

The film has a slow start as we see the methodical Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), working at a Home Depot-type warehouse store and going home to his spare bachelor apartment.  His only recreation is late-night reading at a 24-hour diner, also habituated by a young Russian prostitute named Alina (Chloë Grace Moretz).
It’s only when Alina gets severely beaten by her pimp that McCall comes out of the closet as a one-time government-sanctioned hit man, who has long been presumed dead.  As McCall starts to clean up the pimps, he finds there is more to their operation than he imagined.  And, that’s when a Russian oligarch (Vladimir Kulich) sends in a suitable opponent (Marton Csokas) to find out who is destroying his business.
Denzel turns in a fine performance, as usual, but Chloë is underutilized.  The action is great, but more in beyond-Bond superhero fashion as opposed to the realism suggested by the heritage of the TV series.

I give The Equalizer a 3+ out of 5.