Tag Archive | 5.0

104- Monsieur N. [5.0]

A historical mystery thriller about Napoleon. Sir Hudson Lowe is assigned to guard Napoleon while the latter is in exile in Saint Helena. A local girl, Betsy, has a crush on the exiled leader. This, along with the fact that keeping Napoleon on the island is costing the British a great sum of money, leads Lowe to consider drastic action.

I’ve been tremendously fascinated by Napoleon Bonaparte for almost six years now. I’ve read countless biographies and even put together a silly little concept album based on the historical figure. I couldn’t recommend Monsieur N. to a casual viewer, as I think there are too many factors that prevent it from being interesting to anyone but those heavily drawn into the Napoleon legend. There are many details and references that would have went over my head had I not done research prior to seeing the movie. With about twenty minutes to go, Monsieur N. becomes a laughable mystery movie when there’s seemingly no material left to cover. I’m still trying to find an awesome Napoleon movie and would love a good recommendation.

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97- Silver Streak [5.0]

While taking a train trip from L.A. to Chicago, mild-mannered George Caldwell makes the acquaintance of Hilly Burns. As they indulge in a brief bit of spooning, Hilly tells George that her boss is on the verge of exposing a group of vicious art forgers.

At times, Silver Streak is a Hitchcockian murder mystery. Then it delves into romance, buddy comedy and James Bond-esque action film segments. (I can practically see a movie executive pitching the film, saying “it’s got everything!”.) The one consistent thing throughout is the joy of watching Gene Wilder slide from one genre to the next rather effortlessly. Before watching his teamups with Richard Pryor, I didn’t know that the mild mannered actor had a little bit of crazy in his repertoire (though his performance in Willy Wonka certainly leans in that direction). I would’ve enjoyed Silver Streak if it was more consistent in tone throughout, but the Wilder/Pryor classic scene in a bathroom made it worth watching on its own.

78- Submarine [5.0]

Fifteen-year-old Oliver Tate has two big ambitions: to save his parents’ marriage via carefully plotted intervention and to lose his virginity before his next birthday. Worried that his mom is having an affair with New Age weirdo Graham, Oliver monitors his parents’ sex life by charting the dimmer switch in their bedroom. He also forges suggestive love letters from his mom to dad

No matter how hard I tried shaking the association, I could not get around thinking of Wes Anderson throughout Submarine. Submarine is a far less interesting blend of The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore. First time director Richard Ayoade is very talented behind the camera but woefully lacks in originality. It’s a shame, as there are certainly interesting elements in Submarine.

The playful self-awareness doesn’t do much. Acknowledging large crane shots and pans seem more like an excuse for Ayoade to include the shots that his predecessors used so well in the 70s and other coming of age films without seeming like a complete rip off. Lead character Oliver Tate is a split between Harold from Harold and Maude and Max from Rushmore, but far less interesting than either character. It’s always a pleasure seeing Paddy Considine on screen, but he’s stuck in a weird role that never really quite goes anywhere.

Here’s to hoping that Ayoade finds material that will not only bring the best out of him, but something original out as well.

61- Super 8 [5.0]

In the summer of 1979, a group of friends in a small Ohio town witness a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8 movie and soon suspect that it was not an accident. Shortly after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local Deputy tries to uncover the truth – something more terrifying than any of them could have imagined.

J.J. Abrams becomes so interested in trying to re-create the feel of 1980s Amblin films that he forgets he has to tell a story and make something of his own. Regardless of whether or not his incessant lens flares bother you, the trademark Abrams flaws are on display in Super 8: all mystery, with nothing to warrant care in the answer to what is being posed.

In a film such as this, a lot of the success or failure also falls on the child actors, and that–for the most part– may be the films saving grace. Both Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning are terrific in their respective roles. Riley Griffiths as Charles is tasked with cursing every few seconds, because we all remember the kid who couldn’t help but curse at every instance.

I count myself as a big fan of Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek franchise. Perhaps he’s better suited working on projects with established canon instead of trying his hand at pure originals. Super 8 suffers most from not leaning too heavily in either homage or anything new.

55- Leaves of Grass [5.0]

An Ivy League classics professor becomes mixed up in his lawless identical twin’s drug dealings after receiving word that his brother has been murdered, and returning to Oklahoma to discover he’s been hoodwinked.

Leaves of Grass is a film full of very talented actors. Edward Norton is excellent as usual, playing twin brothers. Tim Blake Nelson (who also directed), Susan Sarandon and Richard Dreyfuss all make good contributions as well. It is unfortunate, then, that the film is such a mess. It’s jarring tonal shifts is one thing, but the fact that Leaves of Grass doesn’t have any consistency from scene to scene means either Nelson couldn’t make sense of the screenplay he wrote or he isn’t very good behind the camera.

[Side note: is Steve Earle obligated to have his songs play over credits in every film or show he acts in?]

36- Rare Exports [5.0]

It’s the eve of Christmas in northern Finland, and an ‘archeological’ dig has just unearthed the real Santa Claus. But this particular Santa isn’t the one you want coming to town.

Rare Exports feels like the work of a Finnish Steven Spielberg. With an overblown score lifted from any number of films in the 80s, this play on the myth of Santa is more homage than an original work. I appreciate what Jalmari Helander tried to do, but despite a few laughs and scares, Rare Exports doesn’t turn out to be worthy of the company of its influences.