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Onna ga kaidan wo agaru toki (1960)
I must admit this is the first movie I see from Mikio Naruse. And I was pleasantly surprised. It's very well acted and filmed. It offers a sombre look at life, relationships, love and all of that.
A Heap of Trouble (2001)
So much fun!
Beware of spoilers even though it's hard to spoil this one. This is funny stuff. I mean, take a bunch of regular Joes and have them walk naked on a quiet suburban street. Other men are tempted to follow them, to get into the sect if I can say. Women are trying to save their men from the insanity. Children are horrified and the ice-cream guy doesn't know how to resist. Very funny short film that's having a second life on the internet. A very catchy song makes you want to see it once in a while. Great sense of humour by the British once again.
Seen at home, on the Internet, on June 16th, 2007. I saw it for the first time at a friend's house in Sudbury a few years ago. Lots of laughs.
Le voyage en Arménie (2006)
"Le Voyage en Arménie" is exactly that and not much more
I didn't know much about Armenia and was very interested to learn more. And the movie works on that front. It could almost be used as promotional material by the country's tourist bureau. But beside the fact that we get to know more about this small country, there's not really any point to see this film. Yes, it talks about the relationship between father and daughter and also about the feelings of those who live in exile, but everything stays on the surface. And, you know, there's just some little things that bug me: the daughter that picks up the language a little bit too fast or the father who seems to be known by everybody even though he hasn't set foot in the country for decades. Just small details that plays in the balance when it's time to rate a movie.
Seen in Toronto, at the Royal, on April 1st, 2007. Shown during Cinéfranco.
Selon Charlie (2006)
Not as bad as people would make you believe
"Selon Charlie" is not a great movie. But it's still enjoyable. That's because the cast is doing a good job. Jean-Pierre Bacri is excellent. I also liked the two Benoîts: Magimel and Plvoorde. But the plot is too complicated and the director doesn't spend enough time working on character development. The movie stays on the surface. A lot more could have been done at the editing stage to skim the movie of the extra fat that makes it only an average flick.
Seen in Toronto, at the Royal, on March 31st, 2007. The film was shown during Cinéfranco.
Paris, je t'aime (2006)
18 short films about the City of Lights
Delightful film directed by some of the best directors in the industry today. The film is also casting some of the great actors of our time, not just from France but from everywhere.
My favorite segments:
14th arrondissement: Carol (Margo Martindale), from Denver, comes to Paris to learn French and also to make a sense of her life.
Montmartre: there was probably not a better way to start this movie than with this segment on romantic Paris.
Loin du 16ème: an image of Paris that we are better aware of since the riots in the Cités. Ana (Catalina Sandino Moreno) spends more time taking care of somebody else's kid (she's a nanny) than of her own.
Quartier Latin: so much fun to see Gérard Depardieu as the "tenancier de bar" with Gena Rowlands and Ben Gazzara discussing their divorce.
Tour Eiffel: don't tell me you didn't like those mimes!
Tuileries: such a treat to see Steve Buscemi as the tourist who's making high-contact (a no- no) with a girl in the Metro.
Parc Monceau: Nick Nolte is great. Ludivine Sagnier also.
I've spend 3 days in Paris in 2004 and this movie makes me want to go back!
Seen in Barcelona (another great city), at the Verdi, on March 18th, 2007.
La science des rêves (2006)
Fantasy meets reality
Something's missing (maybe consistency) from this movie, but it's still enjoyable. The actors are doing a great job, especially Gael García Bernal. I like his dead-pan humor and I think he's one of the most promising actor of his generation. Charlotte Gainsbourg is also good. I find her lovable with her shyness that's not really one. More character development would have been nice though.
The movie is about Stéphane's hallucinations. This guy lives in a funny world where a whole new sphere of possibilities opens up. But when the new neighbor settles in, he has to face reality or bring her into his fantasy world. The film is also about relationships: how they come together and how fast they can dissolve or take a new shape. Being a low-budget film, the special effects are very basic (some would say non-existent) but that's actually a good thing. I liked Stéphane's idea for a calendar about 12 great tragedies!
Seen in Barcelona, at the Verdi, on March 17th, 2007.
The Last King of Scotland (2006)
Whitaker makes the movie
May contain spoilers.
I'm going to side with the Academy on this one: Forest Whitaker is brilliant as Idi Amin. In fact, this movie works because of Forest Whitaker. Without him, it would probably be just an average film.
It's the story of a young doctor from Scotland who ends up in Uganda just when Amin is conducting his coup. Soon enough, Dr Garrigan is working for the dictator, as his personal doctor and then closest adviser. The young guy is blind-sided by power. At a certain point, you ask yourself who's more crazy: the doctor or the dictator? While Whitaker is great, McAvoy offers an average, sometimes weak, performance.
The movie is a must just because it shows what kind of a man was Amin and how he made his people suffer. On the downside, the film stays on the surface and offers us no real explanation on how Amin got to lead his country. This fact is not saved by a few footnotes at the end of the movie. Finally, one could say the movie is more about Dr Garrigan's life than Idi Amin's one and the tragedy of the Ugandan people.
Seen in Toronto, at the Fox, on March 3rd, 2007.
El laberinto del fauno (2006)
I waited and waited to see this movie, not expecting much. But I was pleasantly surprised. It's a cinematic feast for the eyes. The camera movements, the picturesque setting, the dark underworld... Guillermo del Toro goes from reality to fantasy. When we are in one world, we can't wait to go back into the other to see what's going to happen next. The acting is superb. Especially from young Ivana Baquero, as Ofelia, and from Sergi Lopez, as Captain Vidal. The story is engaging, rich and imaginative. Fantastic it may be, but it's definitely not a movie to be seen by young children. Seen in Toronto, at the Market Square Cinemas, on February 11th, 2007.
Casino Royale (2006)
You want action, you got it!
As soon as the nicely done opening credits are over with, the action starts. And what a great action sequence! My favorites scenes: the airport one and the poisoning sequence at the Casino. From one end of the world to the other, James Bond is back and he's showing no pity for the enemy. Daniel Craig does an excellent James Bond. He's got the charm, the look, the wit and the athletic "prouesse" that goes with the character. I like the fact that he shows a bit more vulnerability than in other Bond movies. And I really liked the "Le Chiffre" character as the villain. I must confess that the last Bond movie I saw before this one was "Octopussy". But "Casino Royale" makes me want to see the ones I missed. Seen in Toronto, at the Fox Cinema, on January 26th, 2007.
That's enough! No more PA for me.
The first "Police Academy" movie was good. The second one was interesting. The third and fourth were forgettable. But this one is abysmal. Note to the producers: this is suppose to be funny. There's a few scenes that merit a smile, but the movie is generally boring. Great to see Harris and Lessard, but I miss Mahoney and Sweetchuck. Thank God it's got a short running time. And thank God I got it for free at my local library. This is it for me folks, I'll stop at the 5th installment of the series and leave the rest to those who want to waste their time. Seen at home, in Toronto, on January 21st, 2007.
Just don't call it the best comedy of all-time
Borat is funny. But to say it's one of the best comedy of our time or even of the last few years is just over the top. And I just don't buy the argument that this is a great movie because of the social commentary it makes. Please! We learn nothing that we didn't already know about the extent of the bigotry of some or the stupidity of others. But again, Borat is funny. Put your brain in neutral and just enjoy. Don't get influence by the fact that you could be the victim of the guy's antics. The movie is slightly above average, but you've got to be in the mood to see it.
Seen in Toronto, at the Fox Cinema, on January 20th, 2007.
This academy has seen better days
Police Academy 1 was good, 2 wasn't bad, 3 was bad, this one is worst. Why keep watching? Well, to rate it! There's only a few laughs in Police Academy 4, a movie that should have a lot more. Painfully long scenes like the one where the kids are skateboarding themselves into trouble or the final chase on the sea-doos. The acting is the only bright spot (although some of the actors look tired). Good to see Harris back with his sidekick Proctor, but it's not enough to save the day. Don't rent this one. Take it out for free at your local library like I did.
Seen at home, in Toronto, on January 2nd, 2007.
Starts to wear thin
There's still funny moments. But there's fewer and fewer of them. It's actually a good thing that the movie isn't too long. Even then, the final scene at the marina is way too long. There's a few good laughs and it's good to see some of those idiots again. Mahoney, Callaghan and of course Tackleberry... Nice recruits too! Especially Zed and Sweetchuck. But the franchise is truly going down. Great again to see the Toronto skyline and some city landmarks. Don't rent this one. Try to get for free on cable or at the local library like I did. Seen again at home, in Toronto, on January 1st, 2007.
The Queen (2006)
Excellent movie by director Stephen Frears. He adroitly captures the mood of a nation, of most of the world in fact, that first week of September, almost ten years ago. The part that is fiction though shows the way the Royal family reacted to Lady Di's death. Who knows for sure how they reacted? But that's what also interesting about this film. It puts a human face on a personage known only in public. That was easy with Diana, it's more challenging to do for Elizabeth. Have you ever tried to imagine what the Queen does when she's relaxing in her private apartments? The movie reminds us that she's not only an old woman waving while sporting colorful hats.
That brings me to the way Frears depicts the Royals. The Queen is of course rigid. But one can sense some sensibility some times, quickly put away by the more present sense of duty. Funny to think that the two Royals that are shown as the most insensitive are the ones that are usually considered more accessible: Prince Philip and the Queen mother (now dead, of course). All the Royals and their staff, but also Tony Blair and his entourage are brilliantly played by an excellent cast. At the top: Helen Mirren. She's just great.
A word on the use of footages from the archives. I think the director did an excellent job of mixing those with the fictionalized parts.
A question remains though: has the Queen seen the movie? If so, could she please let us know what she thought of it by posting a comment on IMDb? This would truly show the world that she's able to modernize her institution!
Seen in Toronto, at the Beach Cinemas, on October 28th, 2006.
Décalage horaire (2002)
Simple romantic comedy starring two of France best actors, Juliette Binoche and Jean Reno. The plot is simple: a man and woman meet at the airport while waiting for their flight. One is trying to get to Munich, the other to Acapulco. Stuck at the terminal, they continually stumble on each other. Soon enough they'll be spending the night together, but not in the way you think. Both Reno and Binoche have played in better films, but they still deliver a pretty solid performance. A great way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon inside. Seen at home, in Toronto, on October 22nd, 2006.
Why should we be afraid to talk about sex?
Lots have been said about Shortbus. Yes, the sex is explicit. Yes, the movie will probably be offensive for a lot of viewers. But that doesn't change the fact that this is a good movie. One could say it's a refreshing look at the society we live in, what's taboo and what's not. It's a depressing movie, but it's also full of hope. I guess that explains why it's good. And the characters are interesting: especially Severin (Lindsay Beamish) and Ceth (Jay Brannan). I also like the animated way of showing Manhattan. Seen in Toronto, at the Cumberland, on October 14th, 2006.
The Golden Child (1986)
Just another vehicle for Eddie Murphy
Far from being good, this movie is nevertheless kind of fun to watch. But we've got to thank Eddie Murphy for that. I'm no fan of him but he does the job in this silly adventure. There's some funny scenes, like the one where Murphy walks into a family backyard with a gun and says that the meat is burning on the barbecue. Charles Dance is also doing a good job as the villain. But the plot is uninspiring. And the special effects are bad. The only reason I saw this one was to rate it. Fan of music from the 80's will like it. Seen at home, in Toronto, on October 12th, 2006.
Seinfeld: Good News, Bad News (1989)
Let the fun begin!
First ever episode of Seinfeld. A pilot, actually. Starts with a bang, even though the Elaine character is not in this one; Jerry's apartment is different; Kramer is actually Kessler and he has a dog; the coffee shop is not Munk's; there's Claire the waitress; there's cheesy music. But it's still a lot of fun. The famous scene where Jerry and George are discussing the place of a button on a shirt started it all. And right from the start, relationships are analyzed. Great lines in the laundromat where Jerry says that you "can't over-dry, just like you can't over-die". Back then, the show included a lot of stand-up routine from Jerry: "the washing machine is the nightclub of clothes"!
Watched on DVD on September 16th, 2006.
Good and bad
I saw this movie at the Toronto International Film Festival. The first hour goes terribly slowly. You just keep asking yourself where the director is going. Some people in the audience just got up and left. When we finally know what the movie is about, it's a bit easier to understand. But the ending just leaves you as perplexed as you were at the beginning. Thank God the director was there for a Q&A at the end of her film. Without it, I would have felt robbed of two hours of my life. But her comments helped me understand the meaning of a few scenes, including the last. This is a movie full of symbolism. One thing's for sure, the movie truly speaks about an ugly phenomenon in our world: human trafficking.
The movie might have a terribly slow pace and some strange scenes (à la David Lynch), one aspect we can't complain about is the photography. It's just superb. Some camera shots are just breathtaking. The music is also good.
Seen at the Varsity, during the Toronto International Film Festival, on September 16th, 2006.
Nacido y criado (2006)
Soul searching in Patagonia
***THESE COMMENTS CONTAIN SPOILERS***
The first 15 minutes or so of this movie show you a happy couple with their cute little daughter. They live a nice life in Buenos Aires. That life is shattered when they're involved in a traffic accident. Next scene: the father is now in Patagonia where he works in a desolated airport. The director aims is to show a man having trouble with its past. Santiago feels like a murderer for driving the car when the accident occurred. But we figure out along the way that there's no reason to believe that the wife and kid were killed in the accident.
A man's descent into inner hell. It all happens in beautiful, but rough Patagonia. The setting for this soul searching exercise is beautiful. The director moves at a slow pace, but some scenes are worth the time.
Seen at the Paramount, during the Toronto International Film Festival, on September 10th, 2006.
Deliver Us from Evil (2006)
We've known for a while now that what goes on in the confessional is not always the will of God. But the way this documentary is put together, it just moves you deep inside. The film is unassuming at first but is gathering a lot of steam from segment to segment. I was choked with emotions when one victim's father is expressing his rage. I was fighting tears during most of the film. It was hard not be moved considering the victims' plight and considering the very priest that presided over my wedding was himself imprisoned for sexual assaults committed in the past. Some will say that Amy Berg's documentary paints a one-sided pretty ugly picture of the Catholic Church. But the Church didn't always help itself when expressing doubt, ignoring or by just refuting cases of abuse committed by priests. The director was there at the premiere of her documentary at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was interesting to hear her talk about Father O'Grady. For her, it seems that by agreeing to be interviewed for this film, it was some kind of a way to be freed from whatever guilt he may have. You can sense that this guy puts a lot of importance in showmanship. Seen at the Varsity, during the Toronto International Film Festival, on September 9th, 2006.
7 ans (2006)
No wonder this prison guard is a heavy smoker!
Maïté's husband is in prison. For seven years (you get the title). We don't know why he's there but we know they miss each other a lot. Every short prison meeting is filled with "I love yous" and quite a bit of lust. But seven years is a long time. And there's that prison guard that starts to play an interesting role in their relationship.
All three lead actors are doing a good job in this film. The music was well selected. The cinematography is good. The director pays attention to details, which help. Speaking of the director, he was present at the North American premiere of his movie at the Toronto International Film Festival. After the screening, he answered some questions from the audience with the help of an interpreter. It was interesting to hear him talk about the importance of senses (smell, touch...) in his work. It was also nice to hear him talk about what was really important and what was not in the relationship between the three characters. Sometimes, we pay attention to things that we shouldn't. For this film, he told us that he met women whose husbands were in prison. He got inspired by their lives.
Overall then, not a great film, but surely a good way to spend a night at the movie. Seen during the Toronto International Film Festival, at the Varsity Cinemas, on September 8th, 2006.
Bon Cop, Bad Cop (2006)
Lots of fun
It's rare that a Canadian movie has people talking like this one. What other subjects than the so-called rivalry between Ontario and Québec could have made a better film? Add to that our national sports, hockey, and you've got a winner. It's a winner also because it's funny, especially the first half. The location where the first body is found is hilarious! Patrick Huard and Colm Feore are both doing an excellent job. They're supported by a great cast. I especially like Pierre Lebeau. That guy knows how to swear! Of course, it's full of clichés and stereotypes that the population from the two provinces (English and French) have of the other. But that's why it's so funny. I hope this film does very well at the box-office. My guess though is that people from outside Canada will not find it as interesting. But too bad! Seen in Toronto, at the Beach Cinemas, on August 18th, 2006.
Not as funny as it should be
The first 20 minutes or so of the movie are terrible. But the rest of the movie is acceptable, even though the songs are not that great. The movie is actually better for kids than adults, even if there's some sexual innuendos and a bit of nudity. Jacques Villeret is great even if his character is not well developed. Michaël Youn is terribly annoying in the first half of the film and it only gets a bit better in the second half. But the two genies are great! The movie reminded me of Astérix, that came out a few years ago, if only that it's not as good.
Seen in Toronto, at the Royal Cinema, during Cinéfranco, on April 9th, 2006.
What a fun little movie to watch!
I had much fun seeing this during Cinéfranco, the French film festival of Toronto. The story is very simple, but it works. After 12 years together, a couple pretends, during a family picnic, that they're breaking up. Just for fun, just to see how people will react. And the reactions are not exactly the one they were expecting to hear. Will it have an impact on their future together? And there's that Serge Hatier guy. Will he take advantage of the situation? Lots of subtle humor in this one. The actors are all good. I'm a fan of Sandrine Kiberlain and she delivers a very solid performance again in this movie. And it's only the second film I see starring Yvan Attal (first one was "Le Prof"), but I'm pleasantly surprised.
Seen in Toronto, at the Royal Cinema, during Cinéfranco, on April 9th, 2006.