In "The Monuments Men, Frank Stokes(George Clooney, who also directed… MoreIn "The Monuments Men, Frank Stokes(George Clooney, who also directed and co-wrote with Grant Heslov) finds a willing and agreeable audience when he lectures FDR on the subject of why indiscriminate bombing and shelling is not always a good idea, especially concerning lost art treausures. So, Stokes gets assigned a ragtag team of art experts who are sent to Europe to locate and save art treasures from being destroyed. Considering this is just after D-Day, they have their work cut out for them with the Nazis on the run and bringing as much of the artwork they can carry back with them to Germany. While James Granger(Matt Damon) goes to talk with Claire Simone(Cate Blanchett), art curator and champion spitter, in his shaky French in Paris, the rest split up to search for clues.
Even though "The Train" and "The Rape of Europa" might have covered some of the same ground with more success, "The Monuments Men" still manages to stake its own territory in telling an engaging and occasionally suspenseful and moving story with the help of a great cast.(Bill Murray and Bob Balaban definitely make a very neat team.) That's not to say there are not any problems here, especially in the movie's episodic structure. But just as much, trust is a continuing theme that works itself through the story. In the end, while I find the patriotism odd in a movie that is supposed to be about the importance of art, George Clooney, who does love his speeches, has made another period piece in broad old-fashioned style.
Five years after her husband Garrett(Ed Harris) drowned in Mexico,… MoreFive years after her husband Garrett(Ed Harris) drowned in Mexico, Nikki(Annette Bening) is still very much grieving. But she feels well enough so that her daughter Summer(Jess Weixler) can return to her chaotic life in Seattle while Roger(Robin Williams), a family friend, comes by to use the pool. In any case, Nikki decides to visit the art museum she used to go to with her husband. While there, she sees Tom(Ed Harris), a dead ringer for Garrett.
To be honest, "The Face of Love" would have worked much better as a short story which would not only have kept things ambiguous, but could have ended long before the story ended up running into a wall. Visualizing this concept would have been tricky under the best of circumstances which this is clearly not. But what makes the movie more than a little watchable and sort of worthwhile is the abundant charisma of and chemistry between its two lead actors. Now, if I could only figure what Robin Williams is supposed to be doing here.
In "Miele," Irene(Jasmine Trinca) lives by the seaside. She tells her… MoreIn "Miele," Irene(Jasmine Trinca) lives by the seaside. She tells her loved ones that she is going to Padua. Actually, she is going much further afield to Mexico via Los Angeles. She does this in order to purchase animal barbituates to utilize in her job in assisting the suicides of those terminally ill under the name Honey.
Enter Carlo Grimaldi(Carlo Cecchi).
First, "Miele" takes an interesting angle at exploring the important subject of assisted suicide which probably does not get publicly discussed that much in a seriously Catholic country like Italy. To its credit, the movie also works as a thoughtful character study of someone who is so good at her job probably because she is so numb inside. At the same time, the editing does a neat job of replicating the sensation of continual jet lag in someone constantly on the move while Irene's personal history is deliberately dispensed.(And the music is a nice touch.) Without forcing it, the moral is for Irene to stop for a second in order to make a human connection.
Ever since he was a kid, Yang Lu Chan(Jayden Yuan) has had the ability… MoreEver since he was a kid, Yang Lu Chan(Jayden Yuan) has had the ability to mimic the martial arts skills of others, often putting them to good use. The downside is that it is killing him. After he is the only survivor of a sneak attack, he travels to a remote village to learn how to safely harness his abilities. And is instantly rebuffed. To be fair, the villagers have bigger things on their mind like the coming railroad and electricity but the presentation from Chen Yu Niang(Angelababy) and Fang Zi Jing(Eddie Peng) does not go exactly as planned.
"Tai Chi Zero" is enjoyable on multiple levels as it combines silent films, video games and martial arts into one fun concoction. And the in-movie credits while potentially distracting are not an entirely bad idea. So, in the end, this inventive film keeps things moving which causes it to not sink under the weight of being the Great Steampunk Hope that takes place at a pivotal point in China's history.
"Tokyo-Ga" is a documentary wherein Wim Wenders travels to Japan to… More"Tokyo-Ga" is a documentary wherein Wim Wenders travels to Japan to pay his respects to the memory and films of Yasujiro Ozu, starting and ending with clips from the classic "Tokyo Story." Along the way, he sounds rather cranky in finding a Japan unlike those found in Ozu's films, not realizing that they were one person's vision and also in their own way hermetically sealed, not unlike the wax fruit Wenders is obsessed with watching being made.
But that it is not to say that there is nothing of interest in "Tokyo-Ga." How could there not be when he talks to Chishu Ryu and Ozu's longtime cameraman? Otherwise, Wenders hangs out with other directors who are passing through Tokyo like Chris Marker and Werner Herzog who is on his way to Australia. The bad news is that all of Herzog's speech is in unsubtitled German. The good news is I can make out 'Star Lab' and 'Space Shuttle' which kind of makes me curious to know what he was getting up to next.
In "The Watch," Evan(Ben Stiller) is the manager of a box store. In… MoreIn "The Watch," Evan(Ben Stiller) is the manager of a box store. In his spare time, he founds various clubs around his hometown of Glenview, Ohio; that is when he is not trying to get his wife Abby(Rosemarie DeWitt) pregnant. But when Antonio(Joe Nunez), an employee, is brutally killed while celebrating getting his American citizenship, Evan takes action by starting a neighborhood watch. And then only gets Bob(Vince Vaughn), Franklin(Jonah Hill) and Jamarcus(Richard Ayoade) to show up for an orientation meeting. That does not stop any of them from going out on patrol, though.
It is not that "The Watch" is not particularly funny and nowhere near as good as "The Cornetto Trilogy" in comically exploring male camaraderie under extreme circumstances. It is that it cannot decide whether it wants to be a comedy in the first place. To start, its comic lead actors seem to be strangely enough playing it straight. But at least, Richard Ayoade, Rosemarie DeWitt and an uncredited Billy Crudup seem to get it. More of that would have gone a long way towards fully exploiting the satirical potential of the story, especially considering the choice mixture of the suburbs and alien invasion presented here, instead of this informercial for a big box store which apparently does sell condoms.
In "Red Hook Summer," Colleen(De'Adre Aziza) drops her thirteen year… MoreIn "Red Hook Summer," Colleen(De'Adre Aziza) drops her thirteen year old son Flik(Jules Brown) off in Brooklyn to spend the summer with her father, Enoch(Clarke Peters), a Baptist preacher and boiler repairman. None of which is to Flik's liking, starting with the accommodations. And then there is the lack of air conditioning, the non-vegan food and most importantly the lack of television. All of which he records faithfully with his Ipad 2. At least, there are the sunday school snacks which he consumes with his new friend Chazz(Toni Lysaith).
Even with a shocking third act plot twist that is more Old Testament than New Testament, "Red Hook Summer" is more often than not an evocative look at a boy's expanding his boundaries, both physically and mentally. And a very good performance from Clarke Peters certainly helps matters. But like with other of his recent movies, Spike Lee has a lot easier time with what he wants to say, than in how he says it which is usually just as important, even with the occasional directorial flourish.(It should come as no surprise how little difference there is between a rant and a sermon.) An example of this is on the subject of gentrification as the neighborhood of Red Hook does not come alive on screen like it should have.
In "Two Men in Manhattan," a French diplomat has gone missing in New… MoreIn "Two Men in Manhattan," a French diplomat has gone missing in New York City. Due to the sensitive nature of his work, Moreau's(Jean-Pierre Melville, who also wrote, directed and produced) superiors have told him to be careful with his journalistic investigations. However, his first two inquiries lead nowhere. So, he turns to Delmas(Pierre Grasset), a photgrapher for Match magazine, who he was warned about probably due to his drinking. But it is Delmas who comes up with some viable leads for them to try. However, unbeknowst to the two men, somebody is trailing them...
Like I've pointed out elsewhere, the first thing European filmmakers want to do when they come to America is to find a dive bar. And that especially seems true for Jean-Pierre Melville with his film "Two Men in Manhattan" in creating an instant nostalgia from a now bygone New York(at least Rockefeller Center has not changed much) that is actually a little ahead of its time, and the characters inhabiting it. While Moreau keeps his distance from the sights and sounds of the city, it is Delmas who has fallen prey to its jazzy siren call. But all of that cool atmosphere can only get the movie so far with its weak mystery and lesser story, as it goes on just a little too long for its own good.
As an inventor and special effects innovator, Tim Jenison probably… MoreAs an inventor and special effects innovator, Tim Jenison probably deserves having a documentary made about him just on those criteria alone. But it is his investigation into 17th century painter Johannes Vermeer who was renowned for photographic like realism in his paintings that is of interest in the fascinating and entertaining documentary "Tim's Vermeer" from Penn & Teller.
Due to not wanting contemporaries stealing ideas from him(and probably also to mess with future art historians), Vermeer left behind no notes on his methods. However, certain art historians have theorized that he created his famous paintings with mirrors, or more precisely a camera obscura. That's where Tim Jenison comes into the picture and the documentary by using his engineering expertise to recreate the conditions necessary, first on a copy of a modern photograph of his father-in-law(signed with a black felt tip pen, no less), followed by a reconstruction of one of Vermeer's paintings with a little help from some of the most patient family imaginable.(To be honest, I do suspect there was a little horsetrading involved.)
Not only does all of which not take away from the magic of the paintings, but actually puts us all in awe of the painstaking tasks it took to create such great art. This was at a time when Vermeer had to create all of the geometry of his setup from scratch.
Suffering from an emotional collapse caused by catching her husband… MoreSuffering from an emotional collapse caused by catching her husband cheating on her and news that her father just suffered a heart attack a continent away, Claire(Amber Jaeger) gets in a cab and tells the driver, Thom(Sam Jaeger, of "Eli Stone" & "Parenthood" who also wrote, directed and produced), a broke and just recently homeless photographer, to drive. The following morning, after she gets over the shock of them being near Pittsburgh, she negotiates a fee for him to drive her the rest of the way to San Diego. That works out well until she loses her purse.
With a movie that starts off with as many cliches as "Take Me Home" does in the road movie department, it is kind of hard to overcome them. And then you have the giant lapses of logic like Claire's not wanting to fly even for her seriously ill father(although it is implied later that some reticence on her part might be understandable) and Thom's taking Claire's instruction to drive literally, in a straight line instead of around Central Park, then you have a seriously lost cause. On the other hand, the movie does have its moments and a sort of labor of love vibe, so it is hard to seriously hate it either.