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This week's Film Reviews (Mar 7, 2014)

08 Mar 2014

 

 

The documentary BETTIE PAGE REVEALS All has a limited run this week.

 

Big films opening this week are 300 –RISE OF AN EMPIRE and the animated MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN.

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But the Japanese gem LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON that won last year’s Cannes Jury Prize is a must-see.

 FILM REVIEWS: 

ALAN PARTRIDGE (UK/France 2013) ****
Directed by Decran Lowney

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To Americans, the name of Alan Partridge rings no bells.  This is likely the reason the film has been released in North America with the title as just his name instead of ALAN PARTRIDGE: ALPHLA PAPA in the U.K.  Alan Partridge is a British household name after 2 successful seasons on sitcom television.  The series received rave reviews and the upcoming film is actually pretty good.  Not only is the hit and miss ratio high but the film contains many, many laugh out loud moments making this perhaps the funniest film to be released this year.

Alan Partridge is a fictional presenter who has played on various BBC radio and television shows since 1991.  The character was invented by Steve Coogan.  The film written by him (just as he starred and wrote the recent PHILOMENA) as well.

The story centers on ambitious Alan Partridge whose career is about to take a turn when his radio station in Norwich, Norfolk is bought out by a multinational conglomerate.  In the downsizing, his colleague Pat Farrell (Colm Meany) is let go.  Farrell goes berserk entering the station with a shotgun and taking the staff hostage.  The police forces Alan to be the negotiator with obvious hilarious results.

The clever script milks the situation well coming up with price comic bits such as broadcasting under siege and a runaway radio van under cheering listeners.  The film also takes aim at commercialism vs. art as the disk jockeys complain that they can only play what they are told to.  It also works well that the hero of the piece is something like an asshole, which Coogan portrays quite well.  Though the film contains segments in which violence could be the order of the day, the film stays true to its comedic roots.  The only times fires are shot are in the dream sequence and mostly by accident.

The film contains priceless hilarious segments like the one with Partridge’s face peering at Farrell’s from inside the toilet bowl as he hides in the van’s portaloo and another when Partridge appears in a dream sequence as Jason Statham, Jason Bourne and Jason Argonaut (though it should be Jason and the Argonauts).

The film made number one at the box-office when opening in the U.K.  Whether it does well across the Atlantic is hard to predict, but this is one pretty hilarious comedy.

Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKYkWa9JBu4

 

 

BETTIE PAGE REVEALS ALL (USA 2012) ***

Directed by Mark Moni

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The iconic Bettie Page is the pin up girl the whole world got to know and love.  In Mark Moni’s ‘revealing’ documentary on Page, he tries to capture the charisma and appeal of his bubbly subject.  This he succeeds, but whether ‘all is revealed’, that is up to the audience to decide.  The audience sees her life, her aspirations but still quite a bit of secrecy has been kept.  Perhaps that is what has kept her so popular and mysterious.

Through interviews of her friends and colleagues and also through her voiced interviews (at various stages of her life as reckoned from the sound of her voice), Moni paints a good history of her life.  From the age of her marriage to her rise to success in her business life to her mental instability, one cannot help but admire this independent woman for what she stands for – her principles and beliefs.  Bettie also was a staunch Christian, which is really weird, all things considering.

It was widely believed that Bettie Page knew when to appear and when to disappear.  Throughout the entire film, he audience never gets a glimpse of Paige in her later years.  The closest they get is to hear is her hoarser voice.  So when she said that she always wanted the world to remember her by her photos and pin ups, this smart woman kept her word.  So, do not believe then the title of the movie that BETTIE PAGE REVEALS ALL.

Those who grew up in the Bettie Page years will likely love the film for all the nostalgia it brings.  For those who did not, the film offers a few lessons in life, through observation of what this respectable lady has gone through.

Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ke41T0eXG7g 

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (Japan 2013) Top 10 *****

Directed by Hirokazu Kore-Eda

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Director’s Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s breakout film AFTER LIFE about the recent dead filming their fondest memory to take it forever into eternity is a minor masterpiece.  The British magazine Sight and Sound did a 4-page article on the then undistributed film that eventually got the film a distributor with the film earning the recognition it deserved.  Hirokazu Kore-Eda never matched the greatness of that earlier film till this new entry that won the grand Jury Prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON is the story of two babies switched by birth.  The hospital calls the two families 6 years later to reveal the catastrophe with the families deciding on whether to keep the boys or exchange them.

The film centers on the father of the richer family, Ryoto (Masaharu Fukuyama) a successful architect who spends more time at work than with his son, Keita.  Success is all that matters to him, disappointed at his son’s piano performances (in a quietly humorous segment in which the son plays baa baa black sheep while a girl classmate accomplishes a classical piece).  He puts pressure on his wife Midori and it becomes clear in the film that there is no love in the family.  He gets a call from the hospital 20 minutes into the film.

Director Hirokazu Kore-Eda switches to the other family, the Saikis’s showing how the poorer family, this one with the father, Yudai  a shopkeeper who spends more time with the family lives.  Hirokazu Kore-Eda then alternates the screen time between both families miraculously revealing the true feelings of both the mothers and the two boys in the short period of time.  This is the reason the film works – so much is accomplished in so little time.  The story is told, emotions unfurled and principles, views and social mores explored.  The story is also set in modern Japan where it s competitive and the pressure is on everyone in a family to do well.

The film contains two segments that pack quite the emotional wallop.  One occurs in the middle of the film when the real reason of the baby switch is revealed.  The other is the confrontation between the nurse’s son and the architect father outside their house.  The second demonstrates the power of a son’s love while the first the folly of mankind.

But the film poses the important question of what makes the true son – the upbringing or the blood relation?

Hirokazu Kore-Eda elicits the best performances from children as are evident in his films I WISH and NOBODY KNOWS.  The performances and expressions of the young actors portraying the two sons are priceless.

But despite all the tension Hirokazu Kore-Eda creates especially for the slim chance of a happy ending, the film more than satisfies.  Kore-Eda treats all his characters with respect and the best thing is that those who have done wrong are given a second chance at redemption.  But make sure you bring lots of Kleenex.

DreamWorks has already purchased the film rights to make an American adaptation of the film. It is doubtful that the remake can match the emotional powerhouse of this one. So make sure you catch Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON, which comes with this critic’s highest recommendation.

Trailer:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnaFGUmBsFg

 
 


 

MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN (USA 2014) ***1/2
Directed by Rob Minkoff

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This fast paced, action packed animated adventure sees genius dog Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) and his adopted son Sherman (Max Charles) take their time machine (WABAC) to various time periods to save the day.

It all starts when Sherman’s girl classmate takes the WABAC back into time.  Sherman and father dog travel to bring her back.  But it is much of the same subplot regenerated again.  They save her at different time periods (the Trojan War, Egypt) before the film comes to a climax.  The script attempts to put into the film some scientific mumbo jumbo, something like breaking the time space continuum that actually makes no sense.  There is enough in the dialogue that the audience will understand so that they will believe that the rest of the logic makes sense.  Anyway, director Minkoff moves his film so fast that one can hardly have time to notice the film’s flaws.

Though the film contains no clear messages, it does address key issues like bullying, adoption, the school system and social classes.

The film contains enough goofy stuff for the kids and some adult stuff coming from Mr. Peabody who is supposed to be a genius.  Adults will likely grow nostalgic from this old cartoon, though it is reset to the present.  Mr. Peabody and Sherman live in an ultra modern penthouse.

But the film scores top marks in its 3D animation.  MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN has really classy and astounding animated effects that can be noticed throughout the film’s entirety.

Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=za56MdewGzM

NO CLUE (Canada 2013) **

Directed by Carl Bessai

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This Canadian slant (British Columbia, actually) of detective film noir comes complete with a blonde femme fatale and missing person and is not that bad a film.  But one comes out of the movie with the feeling that: “there is something missing.”  One wihses that Bessai’s (LOLA, NORMAL) film would have fared better, as everyone – director, writer and actors – all work at their material enough.  The plot is intriguing, the characters relatively interesting and the atmosphere sufficiently menacing, but still something is missing besides the person in the story.

A beautiful blonde, Kyra (Amy Smart) shows up asking a private investigator to hunt down her missing brother.  The person Kyra is asking happens to be Leo Falloon (Brent Butt), as she has entered the wrong office.  Leo, infatuated by her, helps her nevertheless.  The plot thickens.  Nothing is what it seems but Leo turns out to be pretty apt in mystery solving.

The film plays as a comedy.  Though the dialogue is occasionally smart, it is not laugh-out loud funny.  Actor Brent Butt is likely funny as a comic but he is no leading man. An actor playing the role straight (like Humphrey Bogart) might have gotten this hole exercise right.  Director Bessai, not known for comedies has his comedic timing all wrong.  He seems unaware on what generates the laughs.  Certain missed jokes should have been left on the cutting room floor.

The result is a film that is half funny and half mystery leaving the audience amiss at what really happened.

Trailer:   http://www.traileraddict.com/no-clue-2014/trailer

 

Best Bets of the Week:

Best Film Opening: Like Father, Like Son

Best Film Playing: Like Father, Like Son and American Hustle

Best Animation: The Lego Movie

Best Drama: The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Action: Stalingrad

Best Documentary: Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve

Best Foreign: Like Father, Like Son

 

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