Tempting Faith

MOVIE REVIEW
The Monk (2011)

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Diaphana

When the novel on which “The Monk” is based was first published in 1796, it caused a sensation thanks to both its salacious content and blatantly anti-Catholic stance. The author, Matthew Gregory Lewis, preferred unbridled passion to piety believing that a life following your natural desires was far better than one spent devoted to God. The Marquis de Sade was a big fan of the book, which is a sure sign that “The Monk” is not something to give your grandmother for Christmas.

Such a novel was bound to attract the attention of filmmakers; and there have been various attempts to bring the story to the screen. The most notable was a version scripted by Luis Buñuel which was released in 1972. Now it is Dominik Moll, director of the offbeat contemporary thrillers “Harry, He’s Here to Help” (released in the United States as “With a Friend Like Harry ...”) and “Lemming,” who brings us his own interpretation of a tale which leans heavily towards the Gothic.

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Love Will Tear Us Apart

MOVIE REVIEW
The Hunger Games (2012)

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Murray Close/Lionsgate

“The Hunger Games” takes place in a future comprised of disparate historical influences. The grand spectacle of the ancients sits in company with totalitarian oppression and the deprivations of recession-hit America. It is as if the apocalyptic conflict that created this dystopia had shattered time itself only for the remnants to be hastily glued back together by a deity on a busy schedule. Similarly, “The Hunger Games” is born from a myriad of cultural sources so that nothing in it can be classed as wholly original.

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An Icon Out of the Elementary

MOVIE REVIEW
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

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Daniel Smith/Warner Brothers Pictures

The easiest way to digest “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” is to pretend that the film does not concern the exploits of fiction’s finest detective at all. If one can convince oneself that Robert Downey Jr. is playing not Sherlock, but some rough-and-tumble Victorian adventurer — Indiana Holmes perhaps — then the film can be enjoyed, much like its predecessor, as a rambunctious but somewhat shallow romp. Naturally, one might notice the odd similarity between Conan Doyle’s creation and the hero of Guy Ritchie’s film; but that is surely mere coincidence.

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Printing All the News That's Fit

MOVIE REVIEW
Page One: Inside The New York Times (2011)

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Magnolia Pictures

In all the speculation over the probable death of newsprint, at least one aspect appears to have been overlooked: How will film and television cope if that great standby character, the investigative reporter, is forced into extinction? Who will have the dogged tenacity to hit the streets in order to uncover a trail of corruption that normally goes all the way to the top? Would "All the President's Men" have been so thrilling had Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein been able to sit back and wait for the latest tweet from Deep Throat or for video footage of the Watergate break-in to be posted on YouTube?

"Page One: Inside The New York Times" does not ask this question — at least not directly — but it still offers a pretty comprehensive debate on the rapid changes occurring in the world's media. Andrew Rossi and Kate Novack took a genuine fly-on-the-wall approach to their subject by pitching up inside the Times building and letting a variety of talking heads provide the commentary. These number not just employees of the Grey Lady, but also the likes of David Remnick from The New Yorker, Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia and even good old Mr. Bernstein himself.

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Down That Long, Loathsome Highway

MOVIE REVIEW
Home (2008)

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Soda Pictures

Some of you may feel that you live in a noisy neighborhood, but the family at the center of "Home" has really got problems. Its charmingly chaotic abode is located in the French countryside with no other buildings in sight. But sadly, it is also positioned slap bang on the side of a freeway which cuts an asphalt scar through the endless expanse of verdant field. This does not prove too much of an issue at first as the road is disused, work on it being inexplicably abandoned some 10 years before.

The brood - mother, father, two daughters and a son - has spilled out beyond the boundaries of its four walls onto the deserted highway, littering it with domestic debris including toys, white goods and even a satellite dish. This liberal-minded clan is very close. The members hold family meetings in the bathroom while their teenage daughter takes her ablutions. On hot summer evenings – which are plentiful – they sit together on a sofa in the garden watching television like an alfresco Simpsons.

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Between Love and Marriage, Something's Gotta Give

MOVIE REVIEW
Cloud 9 (2008)

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Soda Pictures

When it comes to the perennially prickly subject of sex and nudity on the cinema screen, opinion may be divided into three broad camps: those people who regard celluloid sex as wholly offensive and unacceptable, people who see such things as just part of modern filmgoing, and a certain contingent who regard on-screen copulation as a prerequisite to a fulfilling movie experience. Presumably this latter group prefer its bare flesh to be served tight, toned and youthful. In which case those filmgoers are in for a surprise if they watch “Cloud 9,” lured in by the promise of some steamy action. There is plenty of skin on show here, but it is all proudly wrinkled, saggy and well past 60.

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Love and Habeas

MOVIE REVIEW
Anything for Her (2008)

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Mars Distribution

The writer and director Fred Cavayé is not a man given to idle dawdling. Within 10 minutes of setting up the perfect Parisian lives of his lead characters in “Anything for Her,” he swiftly tears them apart by having the gendarmes come crashing through their apartment door. Up to this point, the couple – mild-mannered teacher Julien (Vincent Lindon) and his beautiful wife Lisa (Diane Kruger) – were blissfully happy. In spite of having a three-year-old son, they find the time and energy to make love with the enthusiasm of a pair of adolescents but with decidedly more panache. Well, they are French after all.

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The Burden on Those Left Behind

MOVIE REVIEW
Fugitive Pieces (2008)

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N. Nikolopoulos/Samuel Goldwyn Films

There is a certain air of familiarity surrounding “Fugitive Pieces,” which – thematically at least – treads similar ground to one of the year’s more successful releases, “The Reader.” Both films are based on much-lauded novels and concern a middle-aged, academic type coming to terms with a past which has been blighted, in some way, by Nazi atrocities. In “The Reader,” Ralph Fiennes played a lawyer mentally haunted by the woman who was his first love and the subsequent revelations of her true nature. Meanwhile in “Fugitive Pieces,” a writer named Jakob (Stephen Dillane) is obsessed with the fate of his older sister, who was seized by German soldiers and taken to an unknown but certainly tragic end.

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I'll Be There for You, Literally

MOVIE REVIEW
Management (2009)

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Suzanne Hanover/Samuel Goldwyn Films

If, as some people believe, that the best comedy is grounded in truth, then it is no wonder that “Management” falls so flat on its face. The film begins with an unbelievable scenario and then proceeds to get progressively sillier as it goes along. Not that there is anything inherently wrong in silly - Monty Python made a pretty good career out of it - but it needs to work in conjunction with “funny” to be successful, and “funny” is not a word that springs to mind in the case of “Management.”

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Forbidden Fruit in the Cement Garden

MOVIE REVIEW
Delta (2008)

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The Times BFI 52nd London Film Festival

When the young female lead in a film is introduced wearing an apron splattered with pig’s blood, it is a sure indication that the next 90 minutes are not likely to send you out of the cinema wiping tears of mirth from your cheeks. So it is with “Delta,” an on the whole downbeat experience, but a very rewarding one for those willing to make the effort.

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