This page contains reviews of films seen during the months of January to March 2013


“Argo”- This Oscar-winning film deserved the award simply because it tells a very good story in as direct a manner as possible. There is no lingering over details. The story moves from scene to scene and event to event. Ben Affleck not only directs but stars as the intense and single-minded Tony Mendez, a brave CIA agent who volunteers for the astonishingly dangerous task of making believe he is a Canadian movie producer so that he can enter Tehran, Iran, during the 1979-1981 hostage crisis, and rescue six Americans hiding at the Canadian embassy to avoid being taken hostage like their fellow American embassy workers who were held by the Iranians for over 400 days and not released until January 1981. With the help of a movie makeup artist (John Goodman) and producer (Alan Arkin), Mendez eventually convinces the six to portray Canadian film officials in the hopes that they can get to the airport, get past the Iranian officials and soldiers and fly out of Iran to safety. This is a true story, although a lot of the plot elements aimed at making the story more dramatic were added for just that effect. The supporting cast includes some excellent performances, including those of Goodman and Arkin; that of Bryan Cranston as a CIA official working against the odds with Mendez; and Victor Garber as the helpful Canadian ambassador in Tehran. A (3/30/13)


“Zero Dark Thirty”- This is, to put it simply, the story of how the US came to find Osama Bin Laden, so many years after 9/11, and to send in a group of Navy Seals to kill him inside his home in Abbottabad, Pakistan. And it is quite a story, especially the emphasis on the efforts and will of a young CIA agent known as Maya (Jessica Chastain). Chastain’s performance is intense, said to be about a real-life CIA agent whose name has never been revealed. Maya is portrayed as a single-minded woman with such confidence in her exploits that it ultimately convinces higher officials, including the White House, to take the actions that led to Bin Laden’s death. My problem with this film, directed by Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) and written by Mark Boal, is that it provides too much information and goes on for too long (2 1/2 hours). The beginning, in which CIA agents, including Maya and Dan (Jason Clarke), torture an Al Qaeda captive with waterboarding among other things, goes on far too long. It was my feeling as I watched that we simply did not need to see these procedures in such minute detail. Something similar happens at the end when the Seals helicopter into the Abbottabad house and grounds which have been identified as Bin Laden’s hiding place. In many ways, the film felt almost like an overdone documentary which felt it had to show every step, door blasting, and shooting. But there was a surprise. When they finally got to Bin Laden, you might have missed it if you blinked. All that effort leading to an important moment and the filmmakers decided to show it as quickly and in as little detail as possible. Performances to note are those of Jennifer Ehle as the ill-fated CIA agent, Jessica; Kyle Chandler as CIA station agent Joseph Bradley; Joel Edgerton as the Seals’ Squadron leader; James Gandolfini as the head of the CIA; and Reda Kateb as Ammar, the tortured Al Qaeda member. B+ (3/25/13)


“The Master”- This is an intense study of a smooth-talking charismatic religious charlatan, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and one of his followers, Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), a veteran of WW II suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and whatever other mental ailments he already had prior to the war. But it’s not just about the interaction of these two men (whose performances are outstanding). There is also a powerful and somewhat surprising performance by Amy Adams as Dodd’s wife, Peggy, the very strict enforcer of Dodd’s religious group “The Cause” and his ideas. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who has made some brilliant and eccentric films, such as “There Will Be Blood” and “Magnolia,” “The Master” reveals how a charismatic character can control people regardless of the logic and source of his ideas. Some feel this is a commentary on a well-known controversial religion, but to me it was more a commentary on all such ideas. The ending takes the film slightly astray of this theme, seeming to give greater emphasis to the psychological battle between Dodd and Quell. One is never quite sure what Anderson intends, but it’s still quite a trip. A- (3/16/13)


“Side by Side”-This is a documentary about the transformation of the motion picture industry from film to digital and will be of interest to anyone who cares about how motion pictures are made. Keanu Reeves is the host and interviewer who talks to a wide range of people in the industry, including cinematographers, directors, technicians, actors, and others about their experiences and their reactions to the changes. The film is extremely enlightening as we see the changeover to digital beginning in the late 1990s. Today, one major camera manufacturer, makes only digital movie cameras, but many current films are still made on celluloid. Not only does "Side by Side" explore the making of movies with digital cameras but also the changeover in theaters from film to digital projection equipment (right after watching the film I heard a story on the news about this exact change occurring right at this moment in a 75-year old Connecticut theater). The one thing that I didn’t find that the film explored enough was how digital filmmakers can make images look like they were made on film (as opposed to straight video which has always looked flat and lacked the color depth and excitement of photochemical filmed images). “Side by Side” also explores the issue of future archiving of motion pictures. As some point out, many believe, the technology will change as it does so quickly today that many of today’s digitally recorded films will be unwatchable in the not too distant future because there will be no equipment to display the images. B+ (2/25/13)


“My Afternoons with Margueritte”-Gerard Depardieu has undoubtedly set a record for participation in French films and seeing his name in the cast can be off-putting to some extent. But here Depardieu, as Germain Chazes, a semi-literate man who develops a wonderful friendship with an elderly lady he meets on a park bench, is at his best. Chazes seems to do odd jobs and one day finds himself entering the park to check out his favorite pigeons. He sits next to Margueritte (Gisele Casadesus), begins a conversation, and develops a friendship with this elderly woman who lives nearby in a retirement home. I can’t say that this situation sounds promising for a feature film, but it is genuinely pleasant and charming. In the process, we learn about Chazes’ childhood and the strange bitter relationship he has with his mother (she lives in a house, he lives in a trailer next door). We also learn about his fortunate relationship with his bus driver girlfriend and about Margueritte’s problems with her relatives. Recommended. A very charming film. (In French with English subtitles) B+ (2/24/13)


“Flight”-Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), obviously intoxicated with alcohol and cocaine, boards a jet as the pilot. In flight, serious mechanical problems develop, but Whitaker manages a miraculous crash landing of the plane in a field, with minimal loss of life among the passengers and crew. But when the NTSB starts its investigation, even though it appears the accident was clearly due to problems with the plane, questions arise as to Whitaker’s substance abuse and especially his sobriety during the flight. This is a change of pace for Denzel Washington. Rather than portraying a self-confident, tough character. his usual type of role , here he is a weak man in deep trouble, both with the law and with his conscience about his substance abuse problems. “Flight” ultimately is an interesting examination of a man who has a great deal of responsibility to others, but who manages to lie to himself and the outside world about his drinking and drug problem. Among those he lies to are those who support him, including a union friend, Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood) and a union-hired lawyer (Don Cheadle). Washington is outstanding in this role, but is not to blame for the fact that the film gets somewhat tedious in its repetitive scenes demonstrating Whitaker’s attempts to find and consume alcohol. The point keeps getting made long after we get the picture. The supporting cast does a fine job. Besides Greenwood and Cheadle, the cast includes the always interesting to watch John Goodman as Harley Mays, a “friend” who is there to provide whatever Whitaker needs; Kelly Reilly (an interesting choice since she is British) who plays Nicole, a recovering addict who befriends Whitaker to her ultimate regret; James Badge Dale (HBO’s “The Pacific,” and AMC’s “Rubicon”) in a remarkable scene as an emaciated but fast-talking cancer patient, sharing a hospital cigarette break with fellow patients Whitaker and Nicole; and Melissa Leo as Ellen Block, the hard-nosed primary NTSB investigator. Although the film could have been more concise (it runs 2 hours, 18 minutes), Washington’s performance and the theme of substance abuse make it highly worthwhile. B+ (2/21/13)


“Nobody Walks”-Co-written by Lena Dunham (of HBO’s “Girls”) and the director, Ry Russo-Young, “Nobody Walks” is a relatively short indy film about a group of people in or around the movie business in Los Angeles who can’t seem to control their appetites and desires. John Krasinski plays Peter, a movie sound specialist, who is married to a psychotherapist, Julie (Rosemarie Dewitt), and they have two kids. Peter has invited Martine (Olivia Thirlby), a novice New York filmmaker who needs help creating the sound for a film she is making about insects, and things start getting a little inappropriate in Peter’s soundproof in-home sound studio. Meanwhile, we also see Julie treating Billy (Justin Kirk of “Weeds”), a man who can’t help falling in love (or is it lust?) with his therapist. While the Julie-Billy connection didn’t seem too unrealistic in the context of treatment in the office (psych patients have been known to fall in love with their therapists), this part of the story goes a little awry when Billy coincidentally runs into Julie, who is already suspicious of her husband’s behavior, at a party. Although all the actors do a nice job in this film about how sexual appetites can screw up professional and friendly relationships, the most interesting performance is given by young India Ennenga (Sofia in HBO’s “Treme”) as Peter and Julie’s teenage daughter, Kolt, who has her eye on Peter’s handsome assistant (Rhys Wakefield). This is a decent indy film but to be really special the script could have used a little more meat and substance. There is more in a half hour of Lena Dunham's "Girls" than in this film. B (2/20/13)


“Skyfall”-I found myself looking at this film from two different points of view: (1) as a general thriller, and (2) as a James Bond film. From the first point of view, directed by Sam Mendes, the film is a pretty spirited and stunt-filled thriller. The battle between Bond and a man (Ola Rapace) who has stolen an important computer hard driive, on top of a moving train at the beginning of the film almost leaves one breathless. And it has an intriguing and unusual villain, Silva, played by Javier Bardem, as well as some surprises with regard to the health and well-being of a few of the main characters. Unfortunately, despite the film’s early promise, it descends towards a rather dull ending when the characters arrive at the rather ugly location for which the film is named. Oh, there’s plenty of dynamite and gunpowder, but for a film that’s been loaded with gorgeous scenery and effects (the cinematography by Roger Deakins is something to see), the end takes place mostly in the dark and lacks anything truly fresh. Considering the second viewpoint, and I’m probably repeating criticisms I’ve made of the Bond films since Daniel Craig took over the role of James Bond, this just doesn’t feel like a classic James Bond film. As a veteran viewer of all of the Bond films going back to “Dr. No,” I think it’s pretty obvious that there have always been certain elements in these films that made them special: the Bond music; Bond’s method of introducing himself; the women; the double entendres; Bond’s liquor preferences; the special gadgets from Q and the cars; and, most of all, Bond’s charm. Oh, the filmmakers manage to get the classic Bond theme in once, and Bond does manage a single charmless “Bond, James Bond.” Not even a wink of the eye. There is a beautiful young colleague played by Naomie Harris who gives Bond a sensual shave, but nothing comes of it and at the end her name is finally revealed in one of the corniest scenes ever in a Bond film, a scene worthy of a groan. There is a beautiful femme fatale (Bérénice Marlohe) named Severin, and Bond does jump into a shower with her, but the scene feels fake and inconsistent with the rest of the film, and passes quickly and without much effect. If there were any double entendres, they didn’t make much of an impression. There is one weak line when Bond is given a drink at a bar: “perfect,” that alluded to Bond’s preference for martinis “shaken, not stirred” and was probably missed by most viewers. The new Q, played well by Ben Whishaw, goes out of his way to express sarcasm about all the fun gadgets that Bond has been given in the last 50 years, probably implying that in the present the biggest dangers come from computers, but that doesn’t stop quite a few characters from being injured or killed by good old gunfire and explosions. And finally, and I don’t necessarily blame Daniel Craig, this Bond is utterly lacking in the charm that made the previous Bonds, from Sean Connery to Pierce Brosnan, something special. It just isn’t an effective “James Bond” film to me without those elements. Instead, “Skyfall” is simply a well done thriller with some good special effects, beautiful cinematography, and a few noteworthy performances. Of special note is the performance of Javier Bardem as the villain. I won’t say more, but he is without a doubt one of the most unusual villains I’ve seen in a Bond film, and his performance is loaded with subtleties and innuendos. Naomie Harris is fun to watch as Eve, an agent attempting unsuccessfully, at least at the beginning, to help Bond. Ralph Fiennes is unexciting as an MI6 official beginning to interfere with M’s (Judi Dench) functioning as head of the agency, and Albert Finney does a nice job as Skyfall’s caretaker, Kincaid. The film is entertaining enough on its own merits, but I'm still mourning the real James Bond. B (2/16/13)


“The Paperboy”-I’m not certain what’s going on in the movie business, but it seems that filmmakers are bent on making an awful lot of awful films these days. This film, based on the novel by Pete Dexter, takes us into an unlikely and bizarre Southern swamp world inhabited by very questionable characters. The story is told by Anita (Macy Gray) about the Florida family she worked for in what appears to be about 40 years ago. Jack Jansen (Zac Efron) is a handsome young man with little or no experience with women (apparently due to his mother having left town years before). He lives with his father (Scott Glenn), a news man, and his father’s girlfriend (Nealla Gordon), portrayed stereotypically as a pushy New Yorker. Into this world comes his brother, Ward (Matthew McConaughey), and his black colleague, Yardley (David Oyelowo), reporters investigating the guilt of a backwoods swamp character (his occupation was killing and skinning alligators), Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack), a man on death row for the murder of a sheriff. But also into Jack’s life comes the beautiful and oversexed Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), a woman who has been writing to Van Wetter in prison and plans to marry him. Jack, of course, falls madly in love or lust with Charlotte. This stew is nothing you’d want to eat. While Zac Efron does an effective job of portraying the earnest young Jack (although he looks more like he fits in the present than in the distant Florida backwoods past), the cast mostly overdoes it to the point of nausea. There are a lot of undecipherable and fake southern accents, over-emoting to the nth degree, awkward elements of racial tension considering the time and place, and plenty of unnecessary blood and guts. It is certainly unusual to see Nicole Kidman playing the strangely obsessed Charlotte, a sexually charged personality whose character is never quite explained. I don’t know what to make of John Cusack in the role of a repulsive swamp creep. The usual charming Cusack, far more pleasant to watch, was practically unrecognizable. And poor Matthew McConaughey. Ward starts out with the best intentions but ultimately is monumentally overexposed. (I much prefer the Matthew McConaughey of a film like “The Lincoln Lawyer.”) C- (2/15/13)


“Arbitrage”-This film didn’t get much attention when playing in theaters but it is a surprise in that it has an outstanding and intense performance by Richard Gere as Robert Miller, a Wall Street tycoon. Miller’s financial world, which includes his daughter Brooke (Brit Marling) as an executive of the firm, is falling apart around him and he is desperately trying to sell the firm. However, he is having difficulties negotiating a closing to the deal. He’s married to Ellen (Susan Sarandon), but not surprisingly that doesn’t stop him from having an affair with an attractive protege who runs an art gallery, Julie Côte (Laetitia Casta). When Miller and Julie head off for a fling, the car is involved in an unwitnessed major accident and Miller, who miraculously survives with only minor injuries, begins the process of covering up. In doing so, he involves Jimmy Grant (Nate Parker), a young man for whose father Miller had done significant favors. The remainder of the film revolves around a police investigation by Detective Bryer (Tim Roth), the intense resistance of Jimmy Grant to the police interrogation and accusations, and Miller’s need to explain to himself and others the motivations for his behavior. Is Miller simply a greedy billionaire or is he really thinking about the people who depend upon him? “Arbitrage” is very well done, with somewhat of a clever if slightly contrived ending. B+ (1/28/13)


“End of Watch”-Do you like TV shows about real cops? The kind that show them driving around neighborhoods and intervening in crimes and other questionable activities, usually with on-screen information from their video display? Well, if so, you’ll probably love this film. I didn’t. Filmed in semi-documentary style, the two primary cops are not particularly appealing, played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. They joke and kid with each other about their lives, their loves, and families, and continuously find themselves dealing with some real bad characters and situations, usually coming out as heroes. My biggest complaint about this film, apart from the fact that it is rather drab and spiritless, is that it contains probably the ultimate cliché of films about crime: the cops become the target of the bad guys (in this case, surprise, a drug cartel). “End of Watch” is dark, dreary and forgettable. C- (1/27/13)


“To Rome With Love”-Since the late 1960s, Woody Allen has made almost 50 films. Sometimes the magic works (consider his most recent, “Midnight in Paris,") and sometimes it doesn’t. “To Rome With Love” falls mostly into the latter category as it is not one of Allen’s most successful films, but it has its moments and is loaded with classic Woody Allen themes: the banality and absurdity of celebrity and pop culture, the frivolousness of romance as portrayed in the cinema, and the overwhelming desire for someone other than the one you already have. In “To Rome With Love,” Allen provides four groups of characters in four tales. In one, Allen’s character, a retired American avant-garde opera producer, discovers that his daughter’s potential father-in-law is a great opera singer, but only in the shower! In another, a man is turned into an instant celebrity, followed by paparazzi and reporters for no particular reason. In a third, a young architect living with his girlfriend is warned about the potential romantic dangers of having a young femme fatale actress stay with them. And in the fourth, a seemingly perfect young Italian couple awaiting the arrival of the husband’s relatives, find themselves in a potentially romantically disastrous situation when the relatives mistake a prostitute for the wife and the wife finds herself being seduced by a self-confident but not particularly handsome Italian actor. There are moments of great humor in the film, and each of the tales has potential, but the script overreaches. The silliest of the four tales is that of Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni) who becomes a momentary celebrity for no particular reason. The obsession with the minute details of Leopoldo’s life might have had much more impact if there was even the slightest explanation for his momentary fame. As is always the case in a Woody Allen film, the cast is excellent (who could complain about Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page (as the very unlikely femme fatale), Penelope Cruz, Alison Pill, Judy Davis, and Woody Allen himself, plus a group of first-rate Italian stars, including tenor Fabio Armiliato and the lovely Alessandra Mastronardi, seen recently in the TV series "Titanic: Blood and Steel"). Despite being in his late 70s, Woody Allen never ceases to be worthy of a smile when he’s on the screen. And Judy Davis is a perfect foil. Woody Allen makes his points but somehow all of these stars and stories just don’t seem to add up to a great deal. “To Rome With Love” certainly is worth a look (just the scenery is worth the price of admission), but in the long run, it’s only a fleeting pleasure. B- (1/18/13)


“The Dark Knight Rises”-How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways. Long, ridiculously violent, oppressive, stupid, confusing, painful, and ultimately a gigantic nightmarish bore. And, strangely enough, hardly any Batman. I read Batman comics when I was a kid. I know Batman and this, Mr. Christopher Nolan, is not Batman. This is a surreal nightmare in which a character known as “The Batman” appears briefly. A sequel to the last ridiculous “Batman” film by Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”), “The Dark Knight Rises” should have been called “The Dark Knight Sinks and Gotham Goes With It.” We here in the US are in the midst of a distressing cultural revolution in cinema (and in some other fields) in which movies of the supernatural, gothic horrors, death thrillers, and ultra-computer graphic disasters have become almost the norm. When one compares the silly little humorous and almost innocent Batman stories that occurred on the ancient TV series, starring Adam West, with the last three Christopher Nolan “versions” (and I use that term loosely) of Batman, it’s obvious that we’ve sunk into a cultural quagmire that we may not be able to pull ourselves out of. Did I like anything in this film? Yes, I enjoyed Anne Hathaway’s portrayal of Selina, the catlike jewel thief. As always, I liked seeing Michael Caine as Bruce Wayne’s Alfred (even he gets so disgusted he leaves his job at the Wayne mansion), Marion Cotillard as Marion (even though she hardly looked her best), Morgan Freeman as Wayne’s employee Fox (isn’t Morgan Freeman in everything these days?), and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the eternally enthusiastic police officer, Blake, who doesn't seem fazed by all the death and destruction going on around him. But that's not saying much about a film that runs an excruciating 2 hours and 40 minutes. Gary Oldman as the police Commissioner seemed in a complete fog and Tom Hardy as the insane Darth Vader-like Bane was virtually unrecognizable and often inaudible. If you don't want to torture yourself, avoid this ghastly film. F (1/13/13)


“Miss Bala”-Mexico as we all know has been experiencing a horrible drug war at its border towns. Tijuana and Juarez seem to be no place for tourists to visit these days. In the midst of this, a local Tijuana teenager, Laura Guerrero (Stephanie Sigman), decides to take part in a Miss Baja California beauty contest. Despite assurances to her father that she’ll stay out of trouble. Laura barely gets to the site of the contest with a friend when she witnesses a murderous attack by a drug gang. Although she manages initially to get away, her earnestness gets her back into trouble and into the midst of the gang, under the leadership of Lino Valdez (Noé Hernández) who refers to her as “Canelita”. Lino decides to take full advantage of the young woman, insisting that she provide her name, address, and the names of her relatives (her father and brother). Before we know it, Laura is pulled into taking part in the gang’s criminal activities at it fights against (and sometimes with the help of) the local police, and US DEA agents. “Miss Bala” is intense and compelling as we watch, with surprise and wonder, as Laura manages to accomplish with tenacity all the tasks she’s assigned by Lino, even when she has the opportunity to escape and even when she is clearly disgusted. It must be assumed that her concerns for her father and brother are playing a major role in her thinking. Stephanie Sigman is a surprise delight in this difficult role. “Miss Bala” is far from being a happy film, but it is very effective in demonstrating the horrors of the Mexican drug wars. (In Spanish with English subtitles). B+ (1/9/13)


“Romantics Anonymous”-This is a French-Belgian romantic comedy without much substance. It’s about two people who suffer from virtually pathological timidity. And yet they manage to meet and become attracted although it’s a difficult experience for both. Benoit Poelvoorde is Jean René Van Den Hugde (the name is used for its humorous pronunciation), the owner of a mediocre chocolate company which is on the verge of bankruptcy. Along comes Angélique Delange (Isabelle Carré), a chocolatier of extraordinary talent but who is too shy to let Mr. Van Den Hugde know this or explain that she was the mysterious chocolatier behind another very successful but now deceased chocolate maker. With hardly an interview, Van Den Hugde is attracted to Ms. Delange and hires her, but instead of as a chocolate-maker he appoints her as sales representative and she doesn’t have the courage to explain her talents. “Romantics Anonymous” is not much more than romantic comedy fluff, but it has two charming people, especially Ms. Carré who seems to have a twinkle in her eye at just the right moments. A story about normally shy people might have succeeded better at explaining the difficulties that even attractive talented people can have in connecting with each other. Instead “Romantics Anonymous” seems more like a fairly slight adult fairy tale. (In French with English subtitles). C+ (1/5/13)


“Nobody Else But You (the original French title is “Poupoupidou”)”-This is a French mystery with a twist. Martine Langevin, whose “stage name” is Candice Lecoeur (Sophie Quinton), is a young woman who enters the world of local (Mouthe, France) show biz, becomes well known in the community, and gradually begins to see herself as something of a reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe. Ultimately, though, her body is found in the ice outside of town. Despite this, Candice tells a great deal of her own story either through narration or via diaries she has left behind. Occasionally, she is even heard making observations after her death. In one quirky scene, she can be heard commenting on a man viewing her body. The removal of her body from the ice field is witnessed by David Rousseau (Jean-Paul Rouve), a successful mystery writer who is looking for a subject for a new book and happens to be driving by. While her death is written off quickly by the local police commander (Olivier Rabourdin) as a suicide, and although initially discouraged by a local police officer (Guillaume Gouix) from investigating, Rousseau gets more and more interested in both Candice’s diaries and in coincidences between her life and that of Marilyn Monroe. Ultimately, when attempts are made on Rousseau’s life, it becomes clear that there is a deep, dark secret behind Candice’s death. The main characters are presented in contrast. Sophie Quinton is outstanding as the young woman who suddenly discovers beauty and fame and is going to enjoy it to the hilt. Her flirtatiousness and ego are obvious at times. On the other hand, Rousseau, as portrayed by Jean-Paul Rouve, is a little too laid back in personality, especially considering that he is shown to be rather aggressive in trying to discover the truth about Candice’s death. The script could have been a little sharper and could have used a few red herrings, but overall “Nobody Else But You” is a clever French take on the popular murder mystery genre. (In French with English subtitles) B+ (1/4/13)


“The Day I Saw Your Heart”- This is a little comedy gem from French filmmaker Jennifer Develdère about the relationship of a father and daughter. Michel Blanc plays Eli Dhrey, a spunky 60-year old Jewish former musician who is now in the “rag trade.” He has two grown daughters, Justine (Mélanie Laurent of “Inglourious Basterds”), who is single and temporarily living with her married half-sister Dom (Florence Loiret Caille). Eli also happens to be married to a much younger woman, Suzanne (Claude Perron) who is pregnant with his child, creating some consternation for his two grown daughters, one of whom, Dom, has been trying to have a child of her own. Eli is an outspoken man and has some funny ways of showing his love. In his manner, he invariably alienates his daughters and his wife, if not permanently, at least for short periods of time. The film centers around Justine who is an x-ray technician who, rather eccentrically, uses her equipment to create “x-ray art.” But there were some things Justine did not know about her father, including the fact that he befriended virtually all of her ex-boyfriends and even hired a few of them to work for him, and the fact that he managed to alienate from her, her most recent boyfriend, Sami (Guillaume Gouix), a shoe salesman and boxer, and her self-described “muse.” Things come to a head after Justine does an x-ray of her father’s heart for artistic purposes and notices something that causes her to send him to a cardiologist. Ultimately, we learn that the title has a double meaning that comes out only at the end. The cast is excellent. Mélanie Laurent is lovely to watch as the slightly wacky young woman who doesn’t seem to stay in relationships for long. Michel Blanc is perfect as the self-confident but well-meaning Jewish father who never seems to realize just what problems he’s caused. (In French with English subtitles) B+ (1/1/13)


“Looper”- I’m a sucker for time travel films. I’m always interested in seeing how the screenwriters deal with the inconsistencies and confusion that time travel, if real, would likely create. The film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is annoyingly made up to look more like a cartoon character from Dick Tracy than his own perfectly fine face. Does Gordon-Levitt look too young and innocent? Well, maybe. But the drastic makeup was distracting and unnecessary. Incidentally, there are very few sympathetic characters in this film. In fact, the one exception may be a young mother, Sara, played by Emily Blunt. Gordon-Levitt is Joe, a “looper,” a hired killer in the year 2044 who instantly dispatches victims sent by gangsters from 30 years in the future (where time travel has been invented). Seems body disposal in the future is not a simple task so the job is left to those in the past. Unfortunately, a character in the future known as The Rainmaker (or is it Reign-maker?), is sending back the loopers, now 30 years older, for, in effect, self-execution. One looper friend of Joe’s, Seth (Paul Dano), is unable to kill his older self and pays a very heavy penalty. But Joe’s older version, played by Bruce Willis, is a little too clever for the futuristic gangsters who have killed someone very close to him and he wants revenge. He sends himself back, avoiding young Joe’s bullets, bent on finding and killing the child who would otherwise become the “rainmaker.” That child may or may not be the son of a young woman, Sara (Blunt), at whose farm most of the remaining action, some of it strange and bizarre, occurs. I’d say the filmmakers came up with a fairly successful time travel story, but the execution still seemed forced. As I mentioned earlier, other than Emily Blunt’s Sara, there are no sympathetic characters, something I find to be a flaw in a thriller of this sort. The cast includes Jeff Daniels as the head of the Gat Men, the killers who keep the loopers in line. B- (1/1/13)

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