Movie Review: “The Purge: Anarchy”

1half-starpurge2The clever conceit behind James DeMonaco’s 2013 sleeper hit “The Purge” was not that American society had resolved its crime/inequality/population problems with an annual free-pass-for-murder “purge.” It was that this hell night came home to roost on isolated, gated suburbanites, ostensibly liberal people above this annual bloodletting, immune to its impact, but benefiting and even profiting from the mayhem — until it invades their community and their homes.
“The Purge: Anarchy” abandons that sly and disturbing message for a straightforward quest — people trapped outside when the annual “release the beast” commences, people who fall in with a bloody-minded man, bent on vengeance. It’s preachier, more diverse in its casting. All of which make it more specific and limit it. Throw in generally lackluster performances and illogical plot twists and “Anarchy” is seriously crippled.
It goes wrong right from the start, with the title. Years into this annual purge, it’s become widely accepted. Anarchic? No. There are organized gangs, piling into armored school buses, roid-raging skinheads and tractor trailers full of jackbooted thugs. Images of the Rwandan genocide, or of packs of gun nuts toting their semiautomatic weapons through discount stores come to mind.
“Stay safe” everybody says, but most don’t mean it.
A black revolutionary with the basketball hog-friendly name Carmelo (Michael K. Williams) is preaching against the purge, calling it a racist way the rich and powerful use to cull the minority population.
But all waitress Eva (Carmen Ejogo) wants to do is keep her daughter (Zoe Soul) safe for the night and her aged dad (John Beasley) out of trouble. Then trouble blows down their door.
Liz (Kiele Sanchez) and Shane (Zach Gilford) are a bickering couple who only want to finish their shopping and drive home. But their car is sabotaged, and when darkness hits, black kids in whiteface with machetes and machine guns are after them.
One scowling stranger (Frank Grillo) has armed himself to the teeth, armored his Dodge Charger and set out for revenge this night. But these people in jeopardy fall into his path and interfere with his plans.
“Purge 2″ is more overtly about race and class as our mixed group of five tries to make its way to the safety of dawn (when The Purge ends) without getting slaughtered by a mysterious “army” or murderous oligarchs or black revolutionaries. It’s closer to a sermon. And it’s very close to being an utter bore.
DeMonaco, who has written thrillers such as “The Negotiator,” plainly was given this sequel order as a rush job and the lack of polish shows. Characters act against their self-interest as well as their morals. They stop to bicker in deadly situations and clumsily act as if they’ve read the dull, tin-eared script and know they aren’t in danger in this sequence, so they can chatter and traipse through this alley or down that subway tunnel without a care in the world.
To a one, they’re blase, only summoning up rage or terror once or twice in the third act. We don’t care for any one of them, and Grillo plays his hard-hearted killer with barely a hint of wit or heart.
That reduces this sequel to a first-person shooter video game with a dose of politics added. Maybe that’s the only way to experience “Anarchy,” with the viewer doing the shooting. Let’s hope DeMonaco has a piece of the spin-off game action, because “The Purge” has pretty much run its course as a violent big screen social satire.
 
MPAA Rating: R for strong disturbing violence, and for language
Cast: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Zoe Soul, Kiele Sanchez
Credits: Written and directed by James DeMonaco. A Universal release.
Running time: 1:40

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Movie Review: “Persecuted”

perscThe unholy bond between religion and politics is the background for “Persecuted,” a confused and confusing thriller about a TV preacher ruined by a sinister government plot.
Written and directed by Daniel Lusko, who has Christian documentaries among his credits, and having ex-GOP senator Fred Dalton Thompson and Fox News personality Gretchen Carlson in its cast, you can guess its politics.
But the targets are less clearly defined than you might expect. There are evil Feds, and righteous ones. There are veiled attacks on a Congressional effort to give all religions equal standing, and Federal tax money. The president is a devious Clinton look-alike. But Big Time Religion takes it on the chin, too. The most sinister scenes in it take place in the boardroom of a multi-million dollar TV ministry.
So, “Fair and balanced,” right? Not exactly.
James Remar, who broke out in films 35 years ago with “The Warriors” and later as the villain of “48 Hours,” is cast against type as John Luther, an ex-drug addict who now leads Truth Live!, a crusade that he aims to keep above politics, above religious denominations.
Sinister Senator Harrison (Bruce Davison) is pressuring Luther to endorse The Faith and Fairness Act, something backed by a Coexista-oriented organization called SUMAC. It’s incredibly vague what this will do, but it seems to be some sort of religious tolerance/equality act that will give all religions equal standing and all religions equal access to adherents to other faiths. Luther isn’t having it. But he’s been warned.
A drive home takes a turn toward the honey trap they’ve set for him. A girl dies. Luther is on the lam, hunted by the law, as his ministry tumbles into the hands of his opportunistic second-in-command (Christian comic Brad Stine, pretty good).
Luther turns to his wise old dad (Thompson), who happens to be a Catholic priest, another bit of back story that is unexplained.
“Those who believe in nothing must bring you down,” Dad warns. “You’re just a pawn in a political game.”
The safe way to approach this is as the thriller it is supposed to be, and as such, “Persecuted” is pretty limp. There’s no urgency to the performances, no ticking clock to Luther’s desperate bid to clear his name. Remar, a fine character actor, is utterly miscast as a preacher. He doesn’t have the pulpit presence.
Cops don’t stop to question a guy (Luther) sitting in a darkened car, wearing a hoodie and watching a suburban house, even though they see him. A hotel clerk is so anxious to turn Luther in that she dials up the cops while Luther is waiting for his room key. Missteps like that abound.
More interesting are Luther’s repeated entreaties to a supernatural being that isn’t keeping him or his family safe, shouted prayers that go unanswered. Luther, however, doesn’t lose faith, even when he’s confronting the Senator.
“Remember what the Lord said…”
“Oh STOP with the Lord!”
This slapdash script fail to articulate its basic complaint or identify who, exactly, is persecuting them. Government? The culture? Liberals? Humanists? Jews? U-2′s Bono, champion of the Coexista bumper-sticker?
You wonder, because you can’t help but notice this movie’s almost all-white cast around the time we see the evangelical son of the Catholic priest rub his Rosary beads one last time, and pick up a gun.
 1star6
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and thematic elements
Cast: James Remar, Bruce Davison, Fred Dalton Thompson, Gretchen Carlson, Brad Stine
Credits: Written and directed by Daniel Lusko. A Millennium release.
Running time: 1:31

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Movie Review: “Sex Tape”

 sextape

“Sex Tape” is not quite the train wreck its TV ads make it out to be. Which turns out to be the good news as far as this last and least of the big R-rated comedies of summer goes.

Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel slimmed down and earned the most flattering lighting manageable for the nudity, which is plentiful. They’re game enough. But their chemistry is strictly professional, and there’s just not a lot of fun in watching two actors go through the motions as boring suburbanites who dare to cut loose and try a no-holds-barred/every-position-tried sex tape, and then freak out when that video gets “out there.”

Diaz is Anna, who narrates an opening that recounts “the first time” her husband saw her naked. Diaz and Segel, as her husband Jay, make a spirited stab at playing their randy collegiate selves — making the beast with two backs in dorm rooms, cars and in between the library stacks.

A pregnancy and marriage follows, and Annie asks the only important question left to ask.

“When’s the LAST time your husband saw you naked?”

She’s narrating her blog (Who’s Yo Momma?) and lamenting the way kids, work and routine kill the romance and the sexual heat in a relationship.

Her blog is popular enough to merit attention from a big toy maker, which would like her to tame it and make her the face of their ideal mommy customer. Rob Lowe is the toothy, “I’m VERY excited” corporate kingpin courting her.

But the couple’s solution to their marriage doldrums could destroy that. Running through “every position” in “The Joy of Sex” on video for their new iPad may have been fun. What happens to the video that Jay “forgets to erase” is what sends them out, in the dark of night, to retrieve iPads they’ve given away to friends, family and their postman.

Yeah, I know, who DOES that?

The best moments in the middle acts involve Segel playing a deadly cat-and-mouse game with a German shepherd belonging to Lowe’s uber-rich toy mogul (He has Annie’s iPad).

But those moments are scattered as they team up with unfunny friends (Rob Corddry, usually better than this, and Ellie Klemper) and an obnoxious kid. Where a Judd Apatow or Nicholas Stoller or Seth Rogen would pile outrageous joke upon joke, Kasdan and crew dawdle from one half-hearted gag to the next. At a slogging 95 minutes, “Sex Tape” has no pacing and few rewards for enduring its dull stretches in between the better bits. Segel amps up the mania, here and there. But Diaz never unleashes that “Bad Teacher” fury.

“My gynecologist is going to be SO disappointed!”

Still, two troubling social ills are mocked in the film. Yes, our world’s over-connected, something demonstrated every time an iPad/Macbook or iPhone runs an app that uploads a video, or turns up creepy toy boss Rob Lowe’s fireplace, cranks up his favorite band (Slayer) or sets the mood lighting for when he asks if Annie is up for a little cocaine.

“You wanna bump?”

And yes, product placement has run amok in the movies. Seriously, did Apple underwrite this? Because the message isn’t going to help their bottom line. That message — “Apple will be our undoing.”

On paper it all should have worked. Diaz’s “Bad Teacher” director Jake Kadan behind the camera, Segel and his “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” pal Nicholas Stoller joking up Kate “The Back-Up Plan” Angelo’s script. Something goes terribly wrong long before Jack Black turns up as the foul-mouthed porn purveying voice of reason and marital harmony in the third act.

As Black’s character reminds up, no “Sex Tape” ever did anybody any good. It just spices up what’s already stale — a marriage, or a movie, especially one that Jay, as he’s making it, reviews himself.

“I’m not sure the story’s that important.”

 2stars1

 

MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use

Cast: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Rob Lowe, Ellie Klemper, Rob Corddry

Credits: Directed by Jake Kasdan, written by Kate Angelo, JAson Segel and Nicholas Stoller. A Sony/Columbia release.

Running time

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Willem Dafoe on playing the Italian director, poet and gay activist Pier Paolo Pasolini

pasolini

At the end of our chat about “A Most Wanted Man,” in which he has a wonderfully conflicted, out-of-his-depth banker role, I asked Willem Dafoe about the film he just finished, “Pasolini” with Abel “King of New York” Ferrara.

Here’s a link to Pasolini’s biography on Wikipedia — controversial before he ever exposed a frame of film, famous, a polymath (poet, novelist, filmmaker) and out of the closet before Italy was ready for — his death is still considered, by some, a mystery and potential scandal.

“I remember very specifically that when I worked on ‘Last Tempation,’ one of the few pieces of preparation that Marty Scorsese asked me to do was to watch ‘Gospel According to Matthew.’
I was quite struck by that film. Later, I saw some of his other movies. Later still, when I was working in Italy, I started to read his poetry. As I learned Italian, because I’m married to an Italian, I read all about his life and work. His novels, his journals, his poems.

dafoe2

“I immersed myself in all things Pasolini when I agreed to do this film. He was prolific in all these different fields. He excelled in all these different forms of writing and creating. He was a lot of people, too. He had all this energy for politics and art and life and love.

“Many of the ideas that Pasolini expressed, particularly the political ones, were beautifully written.

“He was deeply restless and curious in challenging himself and the world he lived in — Italy in the ’60s and ’70s. He could see where Italian society and Western society were going.

“The fact that he was an out gay man in 1960s Italy, living a high profile life as a leftist intellectual, meant that he was constantly being hauled into court — laws and lawsuits.
He had a LOT going on.
“I think we have a good take on him, following him through the last 24 hours of his life. We don’t get too obsessed with his murder, which is the subject of a lot of other TV shows and films about him. We deal with it. It happened.

“But what Abel and I were trying for is to paint a portrait of who this man was on the last day of his life — what he was thinking about, who he was meeting, what he was working on. We tried to reconstruct everything from who he had lunch with and what was said, to conversations with his family and friends. A very well-documented life, so we had lots of facts to guide us.

“It’s my fourth film with Abel, and we’re more and more in sync, efficient, as collaborators.”

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Movie Review: “Planes: Fire & Rescue”

planes2

“Planes: Fire & Rescue” is roughly twice as good as its predecessor,
“Planes,” which was so story-and-laugh starved it would have given
“direct-to-video” a bad name. Yes, there was nowhere to go but up.
The sequel’s story is about something — Dusty the racing plane learns to be
a S.E.A.T., a Single Engine Ariel Tanker, a fire-fighting plane. For very young
children, it offers animated suspense and lovely and exciting animated aerial
footage of planes and helicopters fighting forest fires in the American West.
The characters are, to a one, stiffs. But bringing in Ed Harris (as a
no-nonsense trainer/helicopter), Hal Holbrook (voicing an ancient fire truck)
and Wes Studi ( a Native American Sikorsky Sky Crane chopper) classes things
up.
And adults will catch the increased supply of one-liners, which will zoom
right over the heads of kids, especially in the scene set in a planes and cars
honkytonk.
“She left me for a hybrid,” a pick-up truck moans to the bartender. “I didn’t
even hear’em coming!”
The story, such as it is, has Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook) discover that his
antique gearbox has nearly given out, so he can’t race anymore. When, in his
grief, he causes a terrible fire at the Propwash Junction Airfield, he realizes
at least he can train to be a firefighter and help aging fire truck Mayday
(Holbrook) keep the field from closing. Dusty flies off to Piston Peak to train
with the team suppressing fires in a National Park.
Harris voices the hardcase captain of the team, Blade Ranger, a chopper.
Julie Bowen is a cute, flirtatious float plane, Studi milks a few funny lines as
the inscrutable Native American heavy-lift Sikorsky, and so on.
There’s more of a “Thomas the Tank Engine” feel to this sequel, with planes
and firetrucks and bulldozers doing the righteous work of dousing pretty
convincing animated blazes.
The conflict comes from the ambitious park superintendent (John Michael
Higgins), the profanity is all motor related (“Oh, Chevy.” “SHUT the Hangar
Door!”) and the pick up lines in the aforementioned honkytonk are real
zingers.
“Did you fall out of a B-17? Cuz you’re the BOMB.”
Disney put more of a Pixar imprint on this than the first “Planes,” with
familiar voices such as John Ratzenberger, Fred Willard and Patrick Warburton
fleshing out the cast.
A couple of flight sequences take us over majestic deserts and amber waves of
grain — beautiful animated scenery. Other than that, there’s not much to this.
But then, you get the impression from all the “Cars” and “Planes” movies that
the box office and video rentals are not why Disney made them. Come Christmas
season, that much will be obvious.

2stars1

MPAA Rating:PG for action and some peril
Cast: The voices of Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Teri Hatcher, Hal
Holbrook, John Michael Higgins, Wes Studi
Credits: Directed by Bobs Gannaway, written by Jeffrey M. Howard. A Walt
Disney release.

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Director Anton Cobijn on “Life” and the ongoing fascination with James Dean

I was finishing up an interview with “Control” and “The American” and “A Most Wanted Man” director Anton Corbijn, and we’d switched to just chatting about his current project, “Life,” a movie about a photographer for Life Magazine (Robert Pattinson) assigned to photograph the iconic American rebel (Dane DeHaan) at his 1955 peak. We both marveled than an actor dead for almost 60 years, with such a tiny filmography, is still a cornerstone of pop culture.

dean

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Corbijn says. “I was in Berlin yesterday, within ten minutes of walking around downtown, I met two people wearing James Dean t-shirts. I hadn’t noticed how much he’s still this icon — of fashion, cool, what have you.”

Yeah, I offer, “He’s like America’s Che Guevarra.”

“Exactly! All these kids have him on t-shirts and on the walls of their dormitories, and they don’t really know who he is. Just like Che.”

 

 

 

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Movie Review: “Wish I Was Here”

wishZach Braff’s “Wish I Was Here” is a sweet and jokey feature film that is so
at home in the punchline rhythms of TV sitcoms that you may think to yourself,
“When’s his best friend/former “Scrubs” co-star Donald Faison showing up?”
And then he does.
It probably took a little work to invent a character and place for Faison in
this Jewish life/end-of-life dramedy. But it was a safe bet that Braff, who
co-wrote and directed his second feature (after 2004′s “Garden State”) and
financed it with the help of legions of fans through Kickstarter, would make
that “Scrubs” reunion work.
“Safe Bet” is a good way to view this genial, sensitive story of Aidan, a
father and failed actor (Braff) whose wife Sarah (Kate Hudson) supports the
family, something his own father, Abe (Mandy Patinkin) never lets him forget.
Much of what happens here is just R-rated versions of the sorts of life
moments/decisions that distinguished “Scrubs.”
Abe’s cancer comes back, and thirtysomething Aidan and his family, including
his washout brother (Josh Gad), have to wrestle with being faithless Angelinos
with no serious grasp of “Why we’re here” or “What’s it all about?”
Aidan’s kids are in Yeshiva School, where young teen Gracie (Joey King of
“White House Down” and TV’s “Fargo,” a marvel) has taken up the Faith of Her
Fathers with a vengeance. Her Hebrew is impressive, her devotion extends to her
monochromatic wardrobe. Younger brother Tucker (Pierce Gagnon) sleeps through
choir, totes a cordless power drill in his backpack and isn’t all that bummed
when the family suddenly is cut off from the funds that make their expensive,
judgemental all-Jewish school too expensive.
Aidan married a shiksa, so neither he nor wife Sarah are immersed in Judaism.
Their solution, since Aidan’s last acting job was in a dandruff commercial, is
that he’ll home school the kids. He thinks all he’ll need is an elbow-patch
corduroy jacket for that. Disaster waiting to happen.
Meanwhile, tough love Abe is slipping this mortal coil. Aidan can’t talk
brother Noah into even visiting the old man he hasn’t seen in a year, and at
every corner, the disapproving rabbis of the Yeshiva (wizened character actor
Alan Rich among them) tut tut Aidan’s career and the reversal of roles in their
household, where Sarah suffers through a sexist workplace just to keep their
cluttered house in their hands.
The parameters of “Wish I Was Here” fit pretty neatly within what could have
just been a “Scrubs” reunion — similar performances, same tone, similar jokes,
similar aphorisms.
“An epiphany is when you realize something you really needed to realize.”
“The things we left unsaid stay with us forever.”
The banter is snappy and quick, as when Gracie’s non-Jewish neighborhood
crush wonders why she had to drop out of private school.
“But I thought the Jews RAN Hollywood?”
“Me too! Maybe we’re in the wrong tribe.”
Like the year’s other big Kickstarter (fan funded) feature film, “Veronica
Mars,” “Wish I Was Here” takes the “safe bet” route, from its tone to its
fan-friendly pandering. Faison of “Scrubs” plays a sports car salesman that
Aidan and the kids hassle, there’s an inane Aidan as space-suited Skywalkerish
space hero fantasy sequence that returns, time and again. We visit Joshua Tree
for our “epiphany” and Comic-Con, where the nerdy brother finds himself, and
where the soundtrack makes this the second movie of the summer to mockingly use
Paul Simon’s “Obvious Child.” Because at Comic-Con, they’re all children.
Obviously.

If you liked “Scrubs,” and I did, for a few seasons, anyway, you’ll be happy
Braff got to make his movie and happy that you got to see it. Braff and Hudson
play an interesting story arc, and Hudson gives her all in the best role she’s
had in this millennium. But within minutes of the closing credits, you’ll wish
Braff had somewhere fresh to go with all those millions his fans donated to him
to direct his first feature in a decade.

2half-star6
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content

Cast: Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Joey King

Credits: Directed by Zach Braff written by Adam Braff and Zach Braff. A Focus
Features release.
Running time: 1:40

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Movie Review: The eyes are the key to the mystery in “I Origins”

originsIan is a man of science. But he is still a man. And when a model-thin hottie with a strange accent comes on to him in a party, the nerdy guy whose “Can I take a picture of your eyes?” is no pick-up line, is smitten.
Ian, played by Michael Pitt of “Boardwalk Empire” and “Seven Psychopaths,” becomes obsessed. He has no name, no phone number. It was a costume party, so he never saw her face.
But he has that photo of her eyes — distinct, as well as her unique biometric identifier. Ian knows eyes. It’s what he studies. And when he spies her eyes on a billboard, he methodically sets out to track her down.
When he finally locks pupils on her on the subway “by accident,” she wordlessly acknowledges their connection. The stumbling, awkward man of science makes his best move. He shuffles to a romantic tune on his iPod, slides the headphones over her ears, and follows her off the train and into a whirlwind romance.
That would be a grand screen romance, all by itself. But it’s just the opening of “I Origins,” a moody, cerebral and very romantic mystery about love, chance, fate and science.
Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) is passionate and spiritual. Dr. Ian Grey is all about the data. His work seeks final proof that the complex human eye developed through evolution, to “end the debate, once and for all,” with the Intelligent Design crowd. Sofi challenges that, as does his scientist’s eye for odd coincidences, random numbers that aren’t random.
His new research assistant, Karen (Brit Marling) is just as methodical, and she directs their hunt in a new direction. Meanwhile, Sofi moves in and argues that their love was fated, as if they’ve known each other before and will know and love one another again, forever and always, in different guises.
Writer-director Mike Cahill (“Another Earth”) sparingly doles out the hard plot points, deftly emphasizing mood and character as the man of science finds himself wondering if there’s more to this life than what he can grow in a petri dish.
A tragedy deepens the mystery and becomes a potentially world-altering challenge to Ian’s worldview. But to figure out if the eyes truly are “the windows to the soul,” you have to first believe in a soul. And Ian and lab-partner Karen aren’t having that.
Cahill sets up a great, sexy and mystical romance, with Bergès-Frisbey the very embodiment of exotic accented desire. Then he introduces the testy and testing Karen into the mix, a beautiful, brilliant student who is Ian’s subordinate but in many ways his superior.
Pitt makes Ian a colorfully complicated guy, a romantic, more hip than nerdy, never so puzzled that he stops trying to reason through every fact that flies in the face of what he expects the data to be.
Marling is carving out the most interesting niche of any actress working. After this film, following “Another Earth,” “Sound of My Voice,” “The East,” “The Company You Keep” and “Arbitrage,” she’s practically pigeon-holed herself as the smartest guy in the room. Not a bad place to be typecast — brainy, thoughtful and beautiful.
“I Origins” is a true indie film roller-coaster ride, from moon-eyed romance to aching heartbreak, cerebral puzzle to incredibly moving, emotional resolution to that puzzle.
In a season of the year where sci-fi is dumbed down and then dumbed some more for mass consumption, here’s a piece of speculative fiction that will stick with you long after the last Transformer’s battery has died.
 3half-star
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality/nudity, and language
Cast: Michael Pitt, Brit Marling, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey
Credits: Written and directed by Mike Cahill. A Fox Searchlight release.
Running time: 1:50

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Movie Review: “Mood Indigo” suffers from mood swings

moodThe eccentric whimsy and invention overfill the screen of Michel Gondry’s
“Mood Indigo,” an adaptation of a novel by the Frenchman who wrote “I Spit on
Your Graves.” Set in an alternate “Brazil”/”Delicatessen”/”Eternal Sunshine of
the Spotless Mind” reality, it’s a blur of queer gadgets and odd doo-dads,
see-through limousines and dinner tables on roller skates, all in a tale
concocted by an office full of women clattering at a conveyor belt of
typewriters.
That it doesn’t add up to much more than eye candy can be attributed to the
batting average of its director, Gondry — whose latest film has more in common
with his inscrutable failures “Human Nature” and “The Science of Sleep” than
with “Be Kind, Rewind,” or his great, romantic triumph, “Eternal Sunshine.”

Romain Duris (“Chinese Puzzle,” “Heartbreaker”) is Colin, a quirky inventor
whose latest gizmo is his finest achievement. The Pianocktail concocts novelty
cocktails to suit whatever piece you play on the instrument. Colin has an ear
for Duke Ellington’s tunes, “Mood Indigo” in particular.

Nicolas (Omar Sy of “Intouchables”) is his daffy live-in chef, whose culinary
creations literally dance (stop-motion animation) across the plate. He gets his
ideas from a TV chef, because if he’s missing an ingredient or spice, the chef
on TV reaches through the ancient cathode ray tube and hands it to him.
Colin’s best friend is Chick (Gad Elmaleh of “Midnight in Paris”). He’s
obsessed with his favorite philosopher, Jean Sol Partre. Cute.
But Chick has fallen for Alise (Aissa Maiga), Nicolas’s sister, and
Nicolas has found love with Issa (Charlotte Le Bon). Colin is beside
himself.
“I demand to fall in love, too!” he shouts, in French with English
subtitles.
And so he does, with none other than Chloe — the sparkly Audrey Tautou of
“Amelie” fame.
Their courtship isn’t particularly charming or warm, which matters all the
more when Chloe, inhaling an enchanted snowflake as she sleeps, develops an
illness in which plants grow out of her lungs. Colin could possibly come up with
some invention to save her. But the only thing that keeps her alive is covering
her in flowers, which exhausts Colin’s finances, forcing him to take a
succession of terrible jobs, including human plant cover. People are paid to
strip and lie down on piles of dirt so that brass acorns can germinate into
proton guns.
The polymath Boris Vian’s novel “L’ecume des jours” (“Froth on the Daydream”
is as good a translation as any) has been turned into an opera, an earlier
French film and the Japanese movie “Chloe.” Perhaps those adaptations are more
coherent, more emotionally accessible, than “Mood Indigo.”
Gondry is famed for tackling the dense and dark side of “twee,” with American
Wes Anderson having a firm chokehold on the lighter side of it. Everyday items
are magically reinvented for the film, but the characters — despite breaking
into balletic “jetes” on occasion — are rarely more than bystanders, witnesses
to the weirdness.
It’s well-cast, but Tautou and Duris don’t set off the sparks and create the
longing that would give this tragic romance some heft. Everybody else takes a
back seat to the inspired visuals.
So as charming as a picnic can be, where one side of the table is drenched by
a rainstorm and the other sits in sunshine, you can’t help but feel the director
can’t see the forest for the twees.

2stars1
MPAA Rating: unrated, with some violence, sexual situations
Cast: Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Gad Elmaleh, Omar Sy,Aissa Maiga,
Charlotte Le Bon
Credits: Directed by Michel Gondry, screenplay by Luc Bossi and Michel
Gondry, based on the nove by Boris Vian. A Drafthouse Films release. <
Running time: 1:34

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Next Interview: Questions for Willem Dafoe?

dafoeLong one of my favorite character actors, Willem Dafoe had a juicy part in “The Fault in Our Stars” and has an even better one in “A Most Wanted Man,” the latest thriller based on a John le Carre novel to make it to the screen.

He’s playing poet/filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini in a film currently shooting, but I figure I’ll focus on this last great bit of work Philip Seymour Hoffman gave us. Playing an ask-no-questions banker (Dafoe) and world weary German spy (Hoffman), they have many wonderful scenes together, which make the movie.

Questions for Mr. Dafoe? Comment below, and thanks for the help.

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