Napoleon (Abel Gance) ***1/2 - This is the 5-hour Kevin Brownlow cut of the film. It actually sort of hurts me to give it the rating that I'm giving. It's high, yes, but it SHOULD have been higher. This gargantuan biopic on Napoleon has a remarkable and impressive first three hours. From the first scene, it really grabs with its truly breathtaking and bravura filmmaking. There were moments that I got goosebumps, it was so impressive. Then the third act begins when for some reason it becomes a romantic comedy using an unnecessarily large chunk of time on Napoleon's romance with his first wife. It is so frustrating that it was on its way to becoming one of the best biopics ever made only to have it break like that. But still, for the first 3 hours, it's a stunning piece of cinema. I would still recommend it.
Pale Flower (Masahiro Shinoda) ***1/2 -
A newly-paroled Yakuza member (who served time for murder) goes into his old
gambling haunts then befriends and falls in love with a mysterious female
gambler. This films reminds me of Wong Kar-Wai with its beautiful cinematography
and lowkey/chaste love story. It's surprisingly largely non-violent for a film
centering on the Yakuza but still manages to have an aura of tension about it.
Violence can explode at many minute! I wasn't completely blown away by it but
it's still a worthwhile piece of work.
Kicking and Screaming (Noah Baumbach)
***1/2 - It's one of Noah Baumbach's early works and as a fan of The Squid and the Whale was really curious to
see this. It's about a group of college students who just graduate or are about
to graduate. It's a wonderful film about young adult characters each struggling
to move on to the next phase of their lives. This movie could have gone wrong in
so many different ways. It could have been boring, the characters could have
been annoying, it could have been too preachy, etc. But it's almost none of
that. Instead, what I got are strong hints of a terrific cinematic voice in
writer-director Noah Baumbach. It's a delightful, funny, poignant film.
This Is The End (Seth Rogen/Evan
Goldberg) *** - It is an excellent idea: An end-of-the-world Biblical Apocalypse
horror-comedy and have all the characters be celebrities and they play
themselves! The results? Well, it's hit and miss. More hits than misses but
there are enough misses to knock it a few points off my book. This entire notion
of having the actors play a version of themselves wasn't really explored deeply
enough to make it a bit more cutting and satirical. There was potential there
but I think it wasn't explored enough. But still, there are a lot of really good
laughs and I have to say Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have potential as
filmmakers. I see genuine talent there.
The Way, Way Back (Nat Faxon/Jim Rash) ***1/2
- This film surprised me. I really didn't expect it to like it this much. The
plot is kind of a generic coming-of-age teen dramedy flick that we've seen
before in various other reincarnations. The narrative beats and the tropes are
familiar. However, with this film, the characters are wonderfully drawn and
fleshed out that they really come to life (the mopey, angsty teen in the center
manages to be more endearing than annoying, the mom's douchey boyfriend is not a
one-dimensional cartoon, etc.). It also helps that the ensemble of actors
playing them is quite strong with Sam Rockwell being the stand-out. It's funny,
poignant and sweet without being cloying.
Clue (Jonathan Lynn) **1/2 - Someone highly
recommended this film to me. It is without a doubt probably the best film based
on a board game ever made. I've never played the board game (though all the
names sound maddeningly familiar, despite never having seen the film before) so
I'm gonna judge this as a comedic whodunit. It's simple: A group of disparate
strangers get invited to house by a mysterious stranger and then bodies start to
pile up. It's entertaining. It's fun to watch especially with this ensemble of
actors (Can't go wrong with Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Michael McKean, etc.).
There are funny stuff. But all in all I found it all just "eh, it's okay". I'm
sorry I'm not gonna be part of this cult. Excuse me while I watch A Shot in the Dark again.