Saturday, January 31, 2015

Project Almanac

Writers Andrew Deutschman and Jason Pagan have given Director Dean Israelite a moronic script for Project Almanac and Israelite has directed it, moronically.

High school students find the plans for a time machine invented by the father (Gary Weeks) of two of them (Jonny Weston and Amy Landecker).

Landecker’s character is filming their every move with a jerkiness that is as annoying as it is badly done.  However, this conceit is constantly violated by scenes in which there is only one character with the invisible man shooting in the same manner.  Elijah?
Though Weston’s character is trying to get into MIT, he and the rest of the characters act so stupidly, it’s a wonder they would ever graduate high school.

Boring.  Boring. Boring.   I want my money back.

Project Almanac gets a 1 out of 5.

Appropriate Behavior

Writer/Director Desiree Akhavan’s Appropriate Behavior is a valiant first effort.

It concerns a narcissistic Iranian bi-sexual, with more of leaning toward lesbianism. 

There are moments of irony and fun, but not enough of them to make this as good as it could have been. 
Admittedly, it’s incredibly difficult to star in a production you’ve written and are directing.  That being said, I think Desiree would have been better off using another actress in the key role. 

As it is, the film moves forward as if there were caught by a giant rubber band against which it had to fight to overcome inertia.  There just wasn’t enough life in it to give it more than a 2+ out of 5.

Obvious Child

Writer/Director Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child is the story of a 28-year-old comedienne (Jenny Slate), who gets pregnant after a one-night stand.
Thanks to the funny and endearing Ms. Slate, a sweet script and nice support from Polly Draper as the Mom, Paul Briganti as the Boyfriend and Gaby Hoffmann as the Best Friend, this production is worth seeing.

I give Obvious Child a 3+ out of 5.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Two Days, One Night (Deux Jours, Une Nuit)

 Co-Writers/Directors/Producers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have created a touching melodrama with Two Days, One Night (Deux Jours, Une Nuit).

Marion Cotillard plays Sandra, a young Belgian mother of two, who is being terminated from her job so the 16 other workers in her department will be able to get bonuses of 1,000 euros each.   That’s the choice management gave.

Convincing the boss (Batiste Sornin) that there might have been pressure applied in the vote, he agrees to a secret ballot after the weekend.
In recovery for depression, Sandra spends the weekend visiting her co-workers, trying to convince them to vote for her continued employment rather than their bonus.

It’s a tough road for her to try to overcome her lack of self-esteem and fight for herself and her family.

This is a film in which casting makes all the difference.  Marion Cotillard is so watchable, the monotony of interview after interview is tolerable.  It wouldn’t be if a lesser actor played this part.  It’s no wonder she gets nominated for the Academy Awards.

However, overall, Two Days, One Night (Deux Jours, Une Nuit) gets only a 3 out of 5. 


Writer/Director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan is a bleak, Job-like story of modern-day life in Northern Russia.

Kolya (Aleksey Serebyakov) is a hot-head whose home and land is being taken away under the Russian version of eminent domain at a price less than 20% of its value.

Try as he may to fight it, he is not one of the in-crowd and the political powers against him are all corrupt.

Even his childhood best friend (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), a lawyer, can’t help him and ends up being beaten by Kolya for sleeping with his wife (Elena Lyadova) and, then, being beaten by the henchmen of the sleazy mayor (Roman Madyanov).
Kolya doesn’t help himself by taking vodka by the bottle instead in shots.  When his wife commits suicide, he is convicted of killing her and sent to prison for 15 years.

Ironically, the mayor, then, has a church built on the site of his home.   

There is no one to root for in this happy little melodrama.  Nevertheless, it is well-acted and well-told. My Ukrainian viewing guest took it in stride as a typical story in that part of the world.  Nothing to be done.

I give Leviathan a 4 out of 5.