The Kid with a Bike (2011)

 ★★★★★

 

The brother filmmaking team of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have a unique and unequalled style and quality to their films. Their most recent movie, “The Kid with a Bike” (2011), is a quiet but intense drama centering on a young boy and his desperate attempt to find his place in a world where he has constantly been rejected. As the film opens, eleven-year-old Cyril (Thomas Doret) is trying to find the father (JereminThe Kid with a Bike (2011) Renier) that has abandoned him. While searching for him, Cyril meets a hairdresser named Samantha (Cecile de France), who then goes and locates Cyril’s missing bicycle, buying it back for Cyril. Forming a connection to Samantha, Cyril asks if she will act as a foster parent to him on the weekends, and she agrees. The two form a friendship based on Samantha’s patience, kindness and her seemingly profound understanding about Cyril’s already disrupted life.

Having begun their career in documentary and “real life” filmmaking, the Dardenne brothers have a unique and unprecedented ability to make their films feel more realistic than most other being made today. It’s an experience for the viewers just as much as a source of entertainment. By writing, producing and directing their films, the Darrdenne brothers’ vision The Kid with a Bike (2011)doesn’t get filtered through other members of the filmmaking team. It is just their creative idea being brought to life by themselves, with little outside interference. Cinematographer Alain Marcoen is one of the few outsiders allowed into the Dardennes’ creative vision, and his enhancements to this film are memorizing. The camera moves through “The Kid with a Bike” like poetry.  Who would’ve thought a long take of a boy riding his bike would ever be so freeing and beautiful?

Typically their films also have little or no music, which some would say takes away from the dramatic effect, but others (like myself) would argue that it only enhances the realism. In “The Kid with a Bike”, instead of using score music, they allowed Beethoven and moments from his Adagio movement of “Emperor Concerto” to aid them in adding just a touch of un-acted and unscripted drama to their film.The Kid with a Bike (2011) The final result is phenomenal.

An oddity in this film is the background of the Samantha character. There are so many unanswered questions like, “Who is she?”, “What are her motivations?” and “Why is this woman so completely selfless and caring?”. Don’t think for a minute that our lack of understanding is an accident or mistake. She is kind, loving, patient, sincere and even a bit angelic. She appears without a fanfare and doesn’t even seem to have the ability to do anything unkind. Cecile de France is a wonderful actress who isn’t given memorable dialogue here, but her physical acting transcends her character, thus propelling her performance.

The Kid with a Bike (2011)Thomas Doret has proven to be an extremely talented young man, as he is in almost every moment of the film, but never appears to be anything other than a consummate professional. Doret has an exceptional ability to project his character in a new and fascinating way, despite the fact that the general idea of this film is neither new or original. We have seen other characters similar to young Cyril in films like “Kes” (1970) or “The 400 Blows” (1959), but unlike those classics of world cinema, “The Kid with a Bike” even goes further by showing a glimpse into Cyril’s future, filled with the possibility of hope, forgiveness and love.

“The Kid with a Bike” has recently been released into the Criterion Collection, and just like many of their other films, is loaded with some wonderful and insightful bonus features, as well as a new 2K digital transfer that has been supervised by the film’s director of photography, Alain Marcoen. As a result, it is a visually breathtaking film, filled with fluid The Kid with a Bike (2011)camera movements, startling colors and an assortment of mind-numbing and unforgettable images.

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Shock (1946)

 ★★

 

The film noir genre has many high points. Of course there are the low points, too. The 1946 Alfred Werker film, “Shock”, sadly falls into the “low point” category. This film follows a young woman named Janet (Anabel Shaw), who at the start of the film has traveled to San Francisco toShock (1946) meet her husband, Lt. Paul Stewart (Frank Latimore). Lt. Stewart is returning from a POW camp during WWII, where he was presumed dead. Janet is overwhelmed that her husband is alive and she is waiting, not very patiently, in a hotel room that she has rented.

Her husband is extremely late, and while waiting, she witnesses through her window, her neighbor (Vincent Price) murder his wife. The horrific event throws her into shock, and when her husband does arrive, she is completely catatonic. The hotel doctor examines her, but  decides to call in a specialist who happens to be staying in the hotel as well. Dr. Cross arrives to examine her, but of course, Vincent Price is Dr. Cross. He realizes she witnessed his act of violence, and in order to keep her quiet, he recommends that Janet be placed in his sanitarium where he can keep a close eye on her.

Dr. Cross now has to walk a thin line, trying to stay under the radar of the police detectives that are investigating his wife death, and keeping anyone from believing Janet’s ravings about Dr. Cross being a killer. He also has Shock (1946)to deal with his heartless and domineering mistress, Elaine (Lynn Bari), who will stop at nothing to make sure she ends up Dr. Cross’s new wife.

“Shock” had a lot of possibilities, but unfortunately it fell short on almost every account. With a running time of 70 minutes, there is hardly time to delve into any real substance, and instead each scene seems to be attempting to reach a climax as quickly as possible. Lynn Bari plays the seductress well, and is actually the real villain of the film. Vincent Price highlights the cast as the troubled doctor who can’t seem to be pure evil because he always resorts back to his medical training and responsibilities. The emotional roller-coaster that he endures is exemplified well by Price whose character seems lost and wandering in his own mind through much of the film.

Other actors in the film act quite amateurish throughout the film. Anabel Shaw spends much of the movie screaming and looking helpless, and by the mid way point it grows quite tiresome. Frank Latimore just keeps repeating the Shock (1946)same scene structure over and over again. Every time he walks into the frame, he performs a type of acting arc over and over again.

Perhaps the real fault of “Shock” lies with the script. It’s not that the story is bad, but for whatever reason, it didn’t translate from concept to dialogue well. The credits state that the screenplay was written by Eugene Ling, based on a story by Albert DeMond, with additional dialogue by Martin Berkeley. It’s not hard to see how visions may have been lost along the way with this one.

Side by Side (2012)

 ★★★

 

The debate between the use of digital film and photochemical film is just beginning. The documentary, “Side by Side” (2012) was madeSide by Side (2012) with the simple idea of educating today’s movie loving audience on the history and differences between these two very different ways to make a film come to life. Directed by Christopher Kenneally, “Side by Side” is an in-depth look into the reasons that some of today’s top directors have already made the switch to digital filming, as well as why others believe that photochemical film is the only “true” way to create a movie.

This documentary is hosted by Keanu Reeves, as he interviews some of the leading innovators in the field of digital filmmaking. He also talks with many big name directors who have quickly adapted themselves and their craft, believing that digital is no longer our future Side by Side (2012)but our present. These directors include George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, David Fincher, Danny Boyle, Robert Rodriguez, the Wachowskis and David Lynch.

The one aspect in which “Side by Side” is lacking is in defense of photochemical filmmaking. Very few of those interviewed in this movie are still faithful to the photochemical process, and those who do prefer that method seem almost villainized for being short-sided or stubborn. Of course, maybe there aren’t that many people refusing to adopt the “new” way of doing things. There are also some brief discussions withSide by Side (2012) cinematographers who seem to be just as affected as the directors in this change, but even they don’t get the opportunity to voice their concerns about the digital future on a substantial level.

Anyone who considers themselves a fanatic about movies and the way they are made should find this documentary enlightening, even if just for the history lesson on both processes. “Side by Side” is extremely educational, but with a running time of 98 minutes, it’s hard not to feel as if you’re just getting the tip of the iceberg on a subject that has already become important.

A New Kind of Love (1963)

 ★★

 

There are few on-screen (or off-screen) couples as easy to enjoy as Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. The 1963 romantic comedy “A New Kind of Love” is far from a great film, but these two immensely talented actors’ chemistry and genuine affection for each other makes this filmJoanne Woodward and Paul Newman delightfully witty and fairly enjoyable. Newman plays an American newspaper columnist named Steve, who has grown tired of being a nobody. He spends his time drinking and having sex with any and every woman he can find. After unknowingly sleeping with his boss’ wife, Steve is banished to the far off city of Paris.

As a stark contrast of personalities, Joanne Woodward plays Samantha, a hard working, no-nonsense fashion designer. Well actually, she doesn’t design anything. She steals ideas from all the famous clothing designers and creates knock-offs that can be sold at a fraction of the cost. Samantha, along with her co-worker, Leena (Thelma Ritter), and their boss, Joe (George Tobias), take a trip to Paris in order to steal some “high quality” designs A New Kind of Love (1963)for a change.

Steve and Samantha meet on the flight over and couldn’t hate each other more. The repulsion that they share is further heightened days later when Steve mistakes a disguised Samantha for a prostitute and hires her to help him write a newspaper article about women and their various love affairs. Comedy ensues as their relationship continues further, despite the ridiculousness that surround Samantha and her fake identity.

There have been times in my life (and I am sure the lives of other men as well) that I can’t help but wonder why actors with an abundance ofA New Kind of Love (1963) talent (such as Woodward and Newman) would make a cheesy romantic comedy like this. The story is completely predictable, not to mention full of holes. The characters are written poorly and lack any real depth or emotion. In fact, much of  the film seems to be… well, lost or unclear in it’s own direction.

So why did these two stars, not to mention a full cast of talented supporting players, make a film like this one? Quite simply, because it’s fun. It doesn’t matter how bad the dialogue might get at times because every single actor in the film has fun saying the lines, despite their lack of ingenuity. Besides, Newman and Woodward loved working together, and I think they pretty much would have made anything and everything A New Kind of Love (1963)that they could as long as they were together.

Every time the movie begins to fall apart the filmmakers and cast manage to find some ridiculous situation that changes the story and gives the viewer a reason to keep watching. Right in the middle of the film, when it starts to really come apart at the seems, the wonderfully talented Maurice Chevalier comes in (playing himself) and entertains us with his glorious smile, and of course, a song. By the time he’s finished the film seems redeemed, at least for a couple of minutes.

“A New Kind of Love” will never be a movie that I could call great, but because so many talented actors seem to be having so much enjoyment in the film, it’s hard not to have a little fun while watching.

All Criterion Titles on Sale for 24 Hours!

As a huge supporter of The Criterion Collection, and their ever increasing collection of films, I can’t help but feel the need to spread the word about their ongoing sale right now. Starting at noon eastern timeThe Seventh Seal (1957) today, Tuesday February 26th and continuing through noon tomorrow, Wednesday February 27th all in-stock Criterion Collection titles will be 50% off the normal SRP prices. Just fill up your cart and use the promo code “FLASHY” at checkout.

This is a great opportunity to catch up on some of the most prestigious films ever made, including the newest titles that were released in the collection today. This sale includes all DVD’s, blu-ray’s, Eclipse Series sets as well as the many special box sets that are available, The Great Dictator (1940)but hurry as they are already running out of stock on some of the more popular titles. Be sure to visit their site at http://www.criterion.com and happy shopping everyone.

New Releases to Blu-ray and DVD for the week of February 26th, 2013

Tuesday, February 26th will have the following releases:The Master (2012)
  • “The Master” (2012): This drama film, directed by P.T. Anderson, is about a WWII veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) who returns to America, but has trouble adjusting to “normal life”. He enlists the help of a religious movement leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and ends up joining the cause and begins spreading the message. This film was nominated for three Academy awards this year, all in the acting categories. Best Actor (Phoenix), Best Supporting Actor (Hoffman) and Best Supporting Actress for Amy Adams.The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946) 
  • “The Diary of a Chambermaid” (1946): Acclaimed director Jean Renoir made many great films in his career. Unfortunately he also made a handful of films that have been forgotten… until now, as this drama is being released for the first time in America on any home media. The film stars Paulette Goddard as Celeste, who takes a job in the country in an attempt to meet (and catch) a wealthy man for herself.The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
  • “The Hudsucker Proxy” (1994): One of the Coen brothers’ premiere offbeat comedies, “The Hudsucker Proxy”  stars Tim Robbins, Paul Newman and Jennifer Jason Leigh. It is as unusual a comedy as you will find, about a simple, idealistic inventor and his rise to success under false pretenses.Sansho the Bailiff (1954)
  • “Sansho the Bailiff” (1954): This film, directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, is the tale of two children raised in a slave camp. Each grows up with a different set of beliefs and values, based on their experiences. “Sansho the Bailiff” has previously been released as part of the Criterion Collection, but now it will be released on blu-ray as well. This film has become an acclaimed classic due to its superior cinematography and directing style, and stars Kyoko Kagawa and Yoshiaki Hanayagi. “Sansho the Bailiff” was released directly following Mizoguch’s most famous film, “Ugetsu” (1953).Strangers in the Night (1944)
  • “Strangers in the Night” (1944): This rarely seen or talked about Anthony Mann mystery came early in Mann’s career. The plot revolves around a mentally unstable woman who invents an imaginary daughter and begins a correspondence with a soldier. When the soldier shows up at her home things begin to spiral out of control, and the result promises to be full of suspense.
  • “Chasing Mavericks” (2012): This is the biographical film about the legendary surfer Jay Moriarity. It stars Johnny Weston, Gerard Butler, Elisabeth Shue, Abigail Spencer and Scott Eastwood, and was co-directed by Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted.Lady for a Night (1942)
  • “Lady for a Night” (1942): Few on-screen pairs seem as mismatched as John Wayne and Joan Blondell, but somehow this film makes it work. Blondell runs a gambling boat, but she becomes involved in a murder investigation when someone attempts to have her killed.
  • “Chronicle of a Summer” (1961):Chronicle of a Summer (1961) This film is an experimental documentary that was made by Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch. The idea was to see if people could act realistic in front of a camera. This is another film being released this week through the Criterion Collection, and will be released on both DVD and blu-ray.She Devil (1957)
  • “She Devil” (1957): Two biochemists develop a self healing serum and decide to test it on a young woman with tuberculosis. Their serum heals the woman, but it also turns her into monster. This film is not praised for its originality or its story, but has been sought out for having decent direction and marvelous cinematography.

Also, this Saturday, March 2nd, will see the release of:The Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012)

  • “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2” (2012): The winner of this year’s “Razzie” for Worst Picture of the Year is now available for you to take home. Do you know what’s great about this film coming to DVD and blu-ray today? It’s the last one of these films, and hopefully they will soon all be forgotten! 

Happy Academy Awards Day Everyone!

Well, we’ve finally made it to the Academy awards ceremony! I have to be honest and say that I look forward to this day all year long. It’s the most exciting movie event of the year, and we are all invited to watch. The award show will begin tonight at 7e/ 4P on ABC. Here is a complete list of this year’s nominees, and be sure to enjoy the show.

The pictures indicate where I would have cast my vote… had I been asked!

The winners are marked with a *.

Best Picture:

“Amour”

*”Argo“*

Beasts of the Southern WildArgo (2012)

Django Unchained

Les Miserables

“Life Of Pi”

Lincoln

Silver Linings Playbook

Zero Dark Thirty

 

Best Director:

David O. Russell for Silver Linings PlaybookLincoln (2012)

*Ang Lee for “Life Of Pi”*

Steven Spielberg for Lincoln

Michael Haneke for “Amour”

Benh Zeitlin for Beasts Of The Southern Wild

Best Actor:

Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings PlaybookLincoln (2012)

*Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln“*

Hugh Jackman for Les Miserables

Joaquin Phoenix for “The Master”

Denzel Washington for “Flight”

Best Actress:

Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark ThirtyAmour (2012)

*Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook“*

Emmanuelle Riva for Amour

Quvenzhane Wallis for Beasts Of The Southern Wild

Naomi Watts for The Impossible

Best Supporting Actor:

Alan Arkin for “ArgoDjango Unchained (2012)

Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook

Philip Seymour Hoffman for “The Master”

Tommy Lee Jones for “Lincoln

*Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained“*

Best Supporting Actress:

Amy Adams for “The Master”Les Miserables (2012)

Sally Field for Lincoln

*Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables“*

Helen Hunt for “The Sessions”

Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook

Best Original Screenplay:

Amour: Michael HanekeDjango Unchained (2012)

*”Django Unchained: Quentin Tarantino*

“Flight”: John Gatins

Moonrise Kingdom: Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola

Zero Dark Thirty: Mark Boal

Best Adapted Screenplay:

*”Argo: Chris Terrio*Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Beasts Of The Southern Wild: Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin

“Life Of Pi”: David Magee

Lincoln: Tony Kushner

Silver Linings Playbook: David O. Russell

Best Foreign Language Film:

*“Amour”: Austria*Amour (2012)

“Kon-Tiki”: Norway

“No”: Chile

“A Royal Affair”: Denmark

“War Witch”: Canada

Best Documentary Feature:

“5 Broken Cameras”Searching For Sugar Man (2012)

“The Gatekeepers”

“How to Survive a Plague”

“The Invisible War”

*”Searching for Sugar Man”*

Best Documentary Short:

*”Inocente”*Mondays at Racine (2012)

“Kings Point”

“Mondays at Racine”

“Open Heart”

“Redemption”

Best Animated Feature:

*”Brave”*Frankenweenie (2012)

“Frankenweenie”

ParaNorman

The Pirates! Band Of Misfits

“Wreck-It Ralph”

Best Cinematography:

“Anna Karenina”: Seamus McGarveySkyfall (2012)

Django Unchained: Robert Richardson

*“Life Of Pi”: Claudio Miranda*

Lincoln: Janusz Kaminsji

“Skyfall”: Roger Deakins

Best Film Editing:

*”Argo: William Goldenberg*Argo (2012)

“Life Of Pi”: Tim Squyres

Lincoln: Michael Kahn

Silver Linings Playbook: Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers

Zero Dark Thirty: Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

Best Production Design:

“Anna Karenina”: Sarah Greenwood/ Katie SpencerLife of Pi (2012)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Dan Hennah/ Ra Vincent and Simon Bright

Les Miserables: Eve Stewart/ Anna Lynch-Robinson

“Life Of Pi”: David Gropman/ Anna Pinnock

*”Lincoln: Rick Carter/ Jim Erickson*

Best Costume Design:

*”Anna Karenina”: Jaqueline Durran*Anna Karenina (2012)

Les Miserables: Paco Delgado

Lincoln: Joanna Johnston

Mirror Mirror: Eiko Ishioka

Snow White and the Huntsman: Colleen Atwood

Best Original Song:

“Before My Time” from “Chasing Ice”Skyfall (2012)

“Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from “Ted”

“Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life Of Pi”

*”Skyfall” from “Skyfall”*

“Suddenly” from Les Miserables

Best Original Score:

“Anna Karenina”: Dario MarianelliLife of Pi (2012)

Argo: Alexandre Desplat

*“Life Of Pi”: Mychael Danna*

Lincoln: John Williams

“Skyfall”: Thomas Newman

Best Sound Mixing:

Argo: John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio GarciaLife of Pi (2012)

*”Les Miserables: Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes*

“Life Of Pi”: Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin

Lincoln: Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins

“Skyfall”: Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson

Best Sound Editing:

Argo: Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der RynZero Dark Thirty (2012)

Django Unchained: Wylie Stateman

“Life Of Pi”: Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton

*”Skyfall”: Per Halberg and Karen Baker Landers*

*”Zero Dark Thirty: Paul N.J. Ottosson*

Best Visual Effects:

The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyLife of Pi (2012)

*“Life Of Pi”: Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott*

“The Avengers”: Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Susick

“Prometheus”: Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill

Snow White and the Huntsman: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson

Best Makeup & Hairstyling:The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

“Hitchcock”: Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Martin Samuel

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane

*”Les Miserables: Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell*

Best Short Film (Animated):

“Adam and Dog”Paperman (2012)

“Fresh Guacamole”

“Head Over Heels”

Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”

*“Paperman”*

Best Short film (Live Action):

“Asad”Curfew (2012)

“Buzkashi Boys”

*”Curfew”*

“Death of a Shadow” (“Dood van een Scaduw”)

“Henry”