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As all the best war movies are, this is....
... an anti-war movie from its first moments.
Owen Sheers, author of the novel on which the movie was based, was raised in the valleys where the movie is filmed, and heard about the training for local resistance cells to be activated in the event of invasion. He could predict the likely responses of the people there, and this, perhaps, is what gives the characters their silent, enduring truth.
An alternate-history WW2 movie in which D-Day was anticipated correctly by the Germans and the USA didn't (apparently) enter the war, 'Resistance' joins 'The Last Valley' and 'Midnight Clear' as a psychological double-act of both exploring and exposing war. It's a haunting and intimate look at war as an act committed - or not - by individuals rather than nations, with unspoken combat ongoing between individuals and their own values, their own allegiances, their own communities.
A film that sticks in your head and heart when far more active war films have blurred into one amorphous mass of explosions and blood.
A Bigger Splash (2015)
Heavy symbolism almost buries the delicate psychological drama
Tilda Swinton can convey more with her mouth shut, her face half-hidden behind a pair of out-sized mirror shades, than many actors can with their entire vocal and expressive range on display. She's a tour-de-force here although Ralph Fiennes gets all the mentions because his character is continually exposing himself verbally, physically, emotionally.
If you're expecting a sun-drenched frolic on an Italian island, don't watch this. There's sun in plenty but even the earliest frolics are overlaid by a surreal and claustrophobic silence that permeates all the film's future moments whether erotic, awkward, or enraged.
The central character, a rock star, is recovering from a throat operation and forbidden to speak or sing for two weeks. Her ex-lover, a music producer, intrudes on her seemingly idyllic island retreat with his daughter and brashly turns the place upside down.
Much is made of the sexual tension but that's only the top layer. Anyone watching for that alone will find this film predictable, even dull. The real psychological depth lies in all the issues beyond sex, which are subtly presented throughout. Issues of aging and loss, fear for the future and clinging to the illusion of stability. Of relationships tangled deeper than any kelp bed.
There are layers of symbolism, visually, musically, and thematically. Some are bludgeons, others are mere whispers.
The last moments left with a couple of questions that will keep the characters alive in my mind for a good while and bring them back hereafter when I see certain landscapes, architecture, or clothing.
Enjoy the scenery, deplore the brashness and the duplicity, contemplate the clothing and the camera angles, and if you're not drawn in by the half-hour mark, it's not your kind of movie.
You Again (2010)
A movie about women for women, mis-labeled as rom-com
The really bad reviews here surprise me. This is not a lousy movie.
Don't be fooled by that rom-com, starry-eyed wedding advertising.
The wedding is not the centerpiece of the film. The bride's not the main character. This is an ensemble piece, nominally led by the actor previously known for her highly-regarded years as the teen sleuth Veronica Mars but with tremendous support from more mature actors with great comic chops, including Betty White, Sigourney Weaver, and Jamie Curtis.
Also, high school is not forever. It just feels that way.
The men, for a change, are the ones cast mostly as set-dressing, which, from the reviews here, really bothers some men. A weakness of the film from a female perspective is that the women allow their men's pronouncements (ie 'Go to your rooms') to pass unchallenged instead of telling the man to butt out and let them work things out for themselves. At least the men weren't given the 'manly' role of rushing in to save the day.
There are some heartfelt moments and some hilarious ones, not quite enough of either, and one of the reconciliations feels far too 'easy' with insufficient foreshadowing. Too much telling instead of showing for some characters made it a bit uneven.
This is a slightly slapstick, marginally over-the-top cinematic look at the awful ways women and girls tear each other down and the better ways they build each other up. It just tries to do a bit too much in the time allotted.
Surprisingly good for a low-budget indie SF film
This film achieves a lot with limited sets, low tech, and a handful of unknown actors.
The dystopian mood is well-maintained through not only the soundtrack but with camera angles, colour palette and lighting; all of these speak to both technical skill and consistency of directorial vision.
The lead characters are bare-bones but not stereotypical. They appear genuinely vulnerable, in keeping with their surroundings.
The plot is not unique - self-serving and ostensibly socially-protective corporation versus the ordinary man - but the psychological aspects are well done.
There are moral choices to be made.
A surprisingly good low-budget indie SF film.
The Perfect Wedding (2012)
An indie that takes just the right amount of time
This understated indie film features an ensemble of unknown actors in a slow-building family drama with lighter moments.
While the focus is on the blossoming gay love triangle, there are hints of trouble in the others' lives too. Emotional subtleties are allowed to develop at a pace that respects the very real truths unfolding and the almost European level of vulnerability between characters.
The palette is muted throughout, likely from budgetary constraints, but it works to keep the focus on the actors. The Florida setting allows for casual outdoor scenes and a few shots of great natural beauty.
This film will never set the world on fire but it has a lot of heart. It knows what's really important, in family, in weddings, and at Christmas
Once Upon a Holiday (2015)
Tries to do too much and ends up too little
It's a modern American mash-up of The Princess Diary, Roman Holiday and While You Were Sleeping, with remarkably little of the charm of any of those.
For a Christmas story set in part around a magic store run by a dedicated seasonal Santa Claus, it was sadly lacking in magic either festive or cinematic. The dialogue is no more flabby than usual in the holiday rom-com genre but the actors with the mildly amusing exception of the older couple in their magic shop have very little personality and absolutely no spark. The little homage to Brosnan's Thomas Crown Affair at the end had masses of comedy potential, all of which was left untapped. The romantic ending, of a man with a very busy life of his own dropping it all for a helpless woman he hardly knows, felt very flat despite the pretty alpine setting.
If you're looking for a heartwarming romance or a sparkling comedy this holiday season, look elsewhere.
Time Lapse (2014)
Great psychological thriller hidden under the SF skirts
This is a surprisingly suspenseful gem of a low-budget movie.
It's also a fascinating psychological study and a meditation on the nature of roommate relationships, and a twisting metaphysical mind-bender on the nature of time and predestination.
There's nobody among the three roommates to root for at the start of this claustrophobic film, but gradually the paths diverge and you find yourself rooting for the least objectionable at any given moment. The low-key palette makes splashes of vivid colour more stark and foreshadowing.
This is simply a wonderful film on many levels.
Kris Holden-Reid without clothes.
The above is a good enough excuse for me to go back over a scene.
However, this isn't the best date movie. It will raise too many questions in your companion's mind and you'll have to guard your phone from snooping forever afterward.
That said, it's not as painfully bad as some reviews would have you believe. The moral of the story is simple. When you find something real, you have to make a hard choice: to back out of all the other fun, fleeting entanglements, no matter how messy it might get - or let the real one walk.
Yes, the male lead is wooden. Most of the characters aren't nuanced. The female lead carries the emotions for the whole cast. She doesn't show a lot of range, but it's there. The most believable to me are the Three Musketeers - I may have met each of them although not under similar circumstances.
But the very awkwardness of the acting and the filming make this little Canadian film a more real portrayal of the confusions and mistaken assumptions and unavoidable wounds of the current e-fueled, spoiled-for-choice world out there. Maybe the real problem with this movie is that it was released five years ago, before quite so many people had grown into and through this inescapable slice of 21st-century life.
12 Men of Christmas (2009)
Forgettable holiday fluff with a couple of highly watchable scenes
This movie is predictable and forgettable, a Christmas rom-com that ends happily ever after before barely grazing the surface of the leads' potential character arcs. Not that I am convinced either of the lead actors was capable of greater depth, but the script didn't give them any room to try. The secondaries were reasonably attractive and warm and human, but didn't get much in the way of lines or focus.
The reasons to watch:
1. Breathtaking mountain scenery 2. The photo shoot montage is excellent eye candy with humour attached 3. The mid-plot mutual-loathing confession of attraction that's a blatant ripoff from Pride & Prejudice but done in language far less polite.
4. The nod to the very real issue of cash-strapped Search and Rescue services, staffed by volunteers and relying often on borrowed or out-dated equipment, who manage at tremendous risk to life, limb, and family/romance to bring most people home most of the time from the wildernesses they've wandered into.
It's a 6 for those 4 reasons. Otherwise, it might be a 3.
Possibly the best film Paul Walker ever did
You expect nuanced, heart-wringing performances from the likes of Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Penelope Cruz, and Alan Arkin. They've got the acting chops for almost any role, and they are a director's dream cast for an ensemble piece with the sweet sadness of this quiet Christmas film. They deliver. Sarandon has seldom been so luminous, Cruz so vulnerable.
But Paul Walker? It starts off as a familiar role - the cop, the blue-eyed good guy - and rapidly moves beyond that stereotype into territory and emotional range I honestly never though he could traverse. No car chases, no punch-ups, no us-versus-them and emerging triumphant over evil. This role, in this movie, shows where he could have gone, to become one of this generation's great character actors. In that stellar company of actors, he was not outmatched.
Oh, yes, and the script is pitch-perfect. Each separate plot is internally credible and consistent, each looped through at least one other like garland around the holiday tree, all gleaming gently in the glow of many heart-warming lights.
Prepare your hankie. You'll need it.