Starry Eyes is a difficult movie to pin down. On the surface, it’s a horror story that calls to mind Ti West’s The House Of The Devil (i.e. it’s a slow burn with gradually escalating tension and an utterly insane final act). There’s perhaps more of a social commentary aspect to Starry Eyes, so on that level the screenplay feels vaguely ambitious, like it’s trying to make a point. But I’m not entirely sure how successful it is in doing so.
The story concerns an aspiring actress, Sarah (played by Alex Essoe). She winds up getting an audition for a role that could be her big break. At first it seems to go terribly. She has an incredibly awkward experience with two humourless and condescending casting agents (played by Marc Senter and Maria Olsen). But then she gets a callback, so it looks like she might have a shot at this role after all. Only in order to secure the part she has to… Ahem. Well, I’ll let you imagine.
Despite sporting paper-thin characterizations and being stuffed to the gills with clichés and unnecessary side plots, The Equalizer is a decent action thriller, and probably the best thing director Antoine Fuqua has done since he last teamed with Denzel Washington on 2001’s Training Day.
The film brings nothing new to the table, but Fuqua knows how to combine the familiar elements and push all the right buttons, while Washington performs his role as a man with “a very particular set of skills” (to borrow a phrase from a similar film) with aplomb.
Washington is Robert McCall, a man with a seemingly simple life. He lives alone, filling his days working at a hardware store and his nights reading Hemingway over dinner at a local greasy spoon. Outwardly, he’s friendly – well-liked by his co-workers and quick with a joke. But beneath the surface, he seems troubled. He shows signs (never much explored in the film) of obsessive compulsion. His life is built on routine, but the façade is fragile.
As Woody Allen movies go, Magic In The Moonlight is middling. It’s nowhere near his worst, nor does it stand with his best.
The film takes place in the twenties, where we meet Stanley (played by Colin Firth), a debunker of spiritualist frauds, who also happens to be a magician. He performs incognito as the world-famous Wei Ling Soo (who, incidentally, is a character based on a real magician, named William Ellsworth Robinson, who performed back in the late eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds as Chung Ling Soo. Just, y’know, FYI).
One night after a show, Stanley’s longtime friend and colleague Howard (played by Simon McBurney) arrives backstage and begins to tell him about the latest spiritualist he’s met. Simon brings Stanley in when, as is the case here, he’s unable to work out how a particular medium is deceiving people. Stanley vows to expose her and the two set off immediately for the French Riviera.
I missed it in theatres, but after watching it recently on DVD, I can safely say that for all out, balls-to-the-wall action, no movie I’ve seen this year or last has come close to matching The Raid: Redemption. True, when it comes to story and character development, this thing is about as vacant as the main street of a small southern town during a high school football game. But, if you can get over that, you’re in for a treat.
Before I get to what I thought of Moonrise Kingdom, I think a little context is in order: I’ve never really been a Wes Anderson fan. Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums are usually cited as his best films. I turned Rushmore off halfway through because I found Jason Schwartzman’s Max Fischer insufferable. After that, I couldn’t bring myself to watch Tenenbaums.
That’s not to say I hate all his movies. Fantastic Mr. Fox had its moments, and Bottle Rocket made good use of the Wilson brothers. But neither film really knocked me out.
To put it more succinctly, I wasn’t tremendously hopeful for Moonrise Kingdom.
Are there such things as soul mates? What happens to you when the person you once thought you’d spend your life with is suddenly captivated by someone else? How do you go on? These are just some of the questions posed by director Jean-Marc Vallée (C.R.A.Z.Y., The Young Victoria) in his dazzling and thought-provoking film Café De Flore.
There’s an intricate underlying structure at work here, as a pair of seemingly unrelated stories slowly begin to intertwine. The first, set in present day Montreal, follows Antoine (Kevin Parent). Antoine has it all: a woman he loves, two daughters, and a successful career as a DJ. The second takes place in Paris in 1969. It focuses on a devoted single mother named Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis) and her mentally handicapped son Laurent (Marin Gerrier).
Vallée cuts between the two stories frequently and suddenly, and sometimes flashes backwards and forwards within them. It’s a disorienting experience at first as we try to figure out exactly how all the pieces might fit together, but over time a clearer picture begins to take shape.
A skilful blend of comedy and drama, The Artist relies on filmmaking techniques from a bygone era to tell a charmingly simple love story. Though its silent, black-and-white style hearkens back to the past, the film feels timeless thanks to the romance at its core.
The movie opens in 1927, near the end of the silent film era. Movie star George Valentin (played by Jean Dujardin) meets aspiring actress Peppy Miller (played by Bérénice Bejo) at the premiere of his latest film.The chemistry between the two is immediate, and soon the fresh-faced Miller is the talk of the town. But as her stardom grows, Valentin’s career stalls. Rooted in the past, he sees no future for “talkies” and his dismissive attitude toward them sets him up for a potential disaster.
(Note: I mentioned this on an episode of the podcast awhile ago but in case you missed it, I recently started doing some writing for the Quinte Film Alternative. They’re an organization that shows independent/niche movies at the Empire Theatre here in Belleville, Ontario. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend stopping by. But even if you aren’t nearby, these reviews will still be of interest. The QFA’s organizers have great taste in movies, so look for these films at an independent theatre near you. This review originally appeared here.)
In his film The Guard, Irish-born writer-director John Michael McDonagh takes the “buddy cop comedy” formula popularized in Hollywood and infuses it with his own unique sensibilities. The result is a hilarious, foul-mouthed and at times, strangely poignant film.
Stellar acting from a few key players helps to hide some of the seams but Red State sports a rather clunky narrative and feels unevenly-paced, laying it on thick in places and then glossing over details elsewhere.
The latest film from writer-director Kevin Smith stands in stark contrast to his usual comedic fare. This time around, Smith opts for something darker as he tells the story of Abin Cooper and his Five Points Church, a militant, anti-homosexual religious group.