F.I.L.M. of the Week (June 30, 2016)

30 06 2016

Mood IndigoMichel Gondry’s name is among the rarefied few that can serve as an indicator of sophisticated whimsy and off-center delights. Be that in his seriocomic collaboration with Charlie Kaufman with “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” or even working within the Hollywood machine to produce a film adaptation of “The Green Hornet,” he puts an indelible stamp on anything he touches.

Yet even though Gondry made a film that many experts consider among the best of the 21st century, his film “Mood Indigo” hit a bit of snag in the United States. Despite opening in the director’s native country in April 2013, the film took another 15 months to wash up ashore here. And when it did, courtesy of Drafthouse Films, roughly 35 minutes did not make the voyage over.

Normally, I would not complain about a movie getting shorter; many auteur-driven projects could use some fat-trimming. But I would (and likely will) sign up for more of “Mood Indigo.” The film is a playground for the imagination staged within the confines of a beautiful, touching love story. Think of this “F.I.L.M. of the Week” as what might spring from the meeting of the minds between Jacques Tati and the Pixar brain trust.

This is a world where the fancy-free Colin (Romain Duris) can occupy his time trying to make the perfect “pianocktail” – a drink made and refined by how finely he can play the tunes on a grandiose piano set. Where he can float over the city of Paris in a cloud-like Ferris Wheel booth with the girl that catches his eye, Chloé (fittingly played by Audrey Tautou of the charming “Amélie“). As their tragic love story progresses, Gondry never wastes a moment to take our breath away. Virtually every frame is packed with some kind of gadget, gizmo or trick that reminds us of the ingenuity behind the film. Perhaps others could have told this tale of star-crossed lovers, but I remain unconvinced that anyone could make it more of a marvel than Gondry.

F.I.L.M. of the Week (June 25, 2010)

25 06 2010

Find me a more disarming movie than “Amelie,” this week’s “F.I.L.M.”  Try to name a movie that can match it in charm.  Try to name a movie that is capable of delivering such a warm feeling.  Well, I’m waiting.

While those of you who have seen the movie ponder, allow me to sell “Amelie” to all those who have not seen it.  The movie features the star-making turn of Audrey Tautou as the titular character, an incurable optimist and do-gooder in France.  She has the kind of circumstances that breed the neurotic protagonists of Woody Allen films – misdiagnosed with a heart condition by her father, Amelie is homeschooled.  Unable to have friendships with other kids, her only friend is her pet fish, which unfortunately turns suicidal.  Her mother dies after someone committing suicide falls on top of her.

Yet despite all the unfortunate circumstances, Amelie emerges smiling.  She finds pleasure in the little things in life, such as breaking creme brulee with a teaspoon.  And after a surprising find in her apartment allows her to bring a giddy rush of joy to an old man, she commits herself to spreading the feeling to everyone she knows.  This includes her morose father, her solitary neighbor, a sullen co-worker, and a young man with a few quirks of his own.  Through her adventures, Amelie becomes the benevolent guardian angel we all want looking over our shoulder.

And it’s not just Amelie’s personality that lights up this movie like a Christmas tree.  The movie’s visual style feels like a warm hug, beginning with the film’s colors.  Every frame seems dipped in sepia, which surprisingly turns out to be like sugar-coating an already sweet treat.  The cinematography is magical, always a little odd and unexpected.  Every minute is like unwrapping a mystery-flavored lollipop – you know that you’ll devour whatever lies in store no matter what you get.  To top it off, there’s a whimsical score beneath it all to really make the movie float like a balloon.

So, do you have that movie that can be – dare I say it – as cute as “Amelie?”  I can’t stand using that word, mainly because I’m a guy, but the word just seems so appropriate to describe the movie.  Once you see it, I guarantee it will quickly shoot to the top of your “instant feel-good” movies list.  In fact, it’s more than a feel-good movie.  “Amelie” is a feel-great movie.

What To Look Forward to in … September 2009

17 08 2009

I guess this sort of serves as a “fall movie preview.” With this, I want to present what I’m looking forward to in September, what other might be looking forward to, and hopefully introduce you to some movies that you might not have heard of yet.

September 4

The movie that I’m most excited for opening this week is “Extract,” the latest comedy from Mike Judge, creator of “Office Space” and TV’s “King of the Hill.”  The movie stars Jason Bateman, who has been in nearly every comedy and yet I still have not tired of him, as the owner of an extract factory who is a bit down on his luck.  Also featuring a great supporting cast which includes J.K. Simmons (“Spider-Man,” “Juno”), Mila Kunis (TV’s “That ’70s Show”), Kristen Wiig (“SNL”), and Ben Affleck, the movie looks to be truly hilarious entertainment.

Other releases this week include “All About Steve,” a comedy with Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper (“The Hangover”), and “Gamer,” a non-stop action film with Gerard Butler (“The Ugly Truth”).

September 9 & 11

Opening on 9/9/09, “9” uses a clever marketing ploy to hopefully drive audiences its way.  But I’m not sold.  The ever creepy and quirky Tim Burton is behind it, and I have never really been into his type of movies.  The story revolves around nine CGI animated rag dolls living in a post-apocalyptic world.  Maybe this will be some sort of a breakout hit, but until I hear buzz from friends or other bloggers I trust, I’m not throwing my money at it.

“9” is the big attraction of the week.  Also opening is Tyler Perry’s latest movie “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” starring Taraji P. Henson of “Benjamin Button” fame, the thriller “Whiteout” starring the gorgeous Kate Beckinsale, and the horror flick “Sorority Row.”

September 18

There are several movies to get excited about that open this weekend.  First and foremost is “The Informant,” starring Matt Damon.  It takes your usual FBI rat story and flips it on its head, turning it into a comedy.  I have always thought Damon has a great knack for subtle comedy, perfectly illustrated in the “Ocean’s” movies.  The director is Steven Soderbergh, Oscar winner for “Traffic,” but has also helmed “Erin Brockovich” and all three “Ocean’s” films.  And the good news is that this is only Matt Damon’s first role of the year with Oscar potential (see the December preview later).

Also opening is “Jennifer’s Body,” which is the first film written by Diablo Cody since winning the Oscar for “Juno.”  It stars Hollywood’s beauty queen Megan Fox as a vampire who eats guys at her high school.  Her presence alone will drive every young guy in America to this movie.  It also features Amanda Seyfried, one of the bright spots in the otherwise disastrous film adaptation of “Mamma Mia!”  I love the quick-witted humor of “Juno,” and although this doesn’t appear to offer similar antics, curiosity (and Megan Fox) will probably get me.

In limited release, “Bright Star” opens, a movie consider by many to be a major Oscar player.  It isn’t the kind of movie that excites me just from watching the trailer, but the buzz surrounding it coming out of the Cannes Film Festival can’t be discarded.  The movie follows the life of the poet John Keats in the early 1800s.  It is directed by Jane Campion, writer/director of “The Piano,” and features a cast of nearly no recognizable names.  I feel obliged to tell you about it because many are sure that you will be hearing about it during awards season and also because so many people love movies set in the beautiful English country with tons of beautiful costumes and people.

Also opening is “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” an animated adaptation of one of my favorite books growing up. Unfortunately, their idea of adapting it is taking the basic premise of food raining from the sky and destroying the rest of the original story. Maybe I will check it out for old time’s sake, but I’m not expecting anything special. The week also puts forth a romantic drama “Love Happens” starring Aaron Eckhart (“The Dark Knight”) and Jennifer Aniston. And technically, the writer/director of “Babel,” Guillermo Ariaga, releases his latest movie, “The Burning Plain,” to theaters this weekend, but you can watch it on demand starting August 21 if you are that curious.

September 25

Being a musical theater junkie, I feel that it is my duty to push “Fame.”  The movie is a musical that follows a group of talented artists throughout their four years in high school in New York.  At a time in their lives where they don’t know if they have what it takes it to make it big, all the emotions appear to run high.  The movie features no stars. so hopefully this will launch some very promising careers.

For action fans, Bruce Willis is at it again in a high concept sci-fi called “Surrogates,” in which everyone in the world controls a robotic version of themselves from home called a surrogate. Willis plays a detective who investigates the possibility of the surrogates killing the user who operates it.  For sci-fi fans, a screamfest called “Pandorum” with Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster (“3:10 To Yuma”) looks to deliver.  For all those craving a raunchy comedy, a little studio will try to pack you into “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell,” adapted from the tales of drinking and its consequences in the book of the same name.  In limited release, those who like the costumes of “Bright Star” get “Coco Before Chanel,” the story of the legendary fashion designer.  (NOTE: “The Invention of Lying” was pushed back to October 2.)

So, readers, what is your most anticipated in September?  Anything I left off?  Take the poll and let me know.

Until the next reel,