New Releases for the Week of May 4, 2012


May 4, 2012

MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS

(Disney/Marvel) Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany (voice), Alexis Denisof. Directed by Joss Whedon

At long last it is here, the movie we’ve been waiting for ever since Iron Man brought the Marvel franchise to the forefront of comic book films. Here Loki leads an alien invasion of Earth and it will take the combined strength of Earth’s mightiest heroes to save the planet from subjugation. Some theaters around the country will be holding a Marvel marathon, showing all six films preceding The Avengers chronologically on Thursday, culminating with a midnight showing of this film – check your local listings to see which theater is presenting this in your neck of the woods. As Stan Lee himself might say, Excelsior!

See the trailer, featurettes, clips, interviews and promos here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D

Genre: Superhero

Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference)

Damsels in Distress

(Sony Classics) Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody, Analeigh Tipton, Aubrey Plaza. A group of fashionistas at a college take a new girl under their wings in order to teach her their somewhat unorthodox ways of helping people who they deem are in need of it. When the new girl is pursued by a young man, it sets off a chain of events that will change the dynamic of the girls and maybe – just maybe – give them an entirely new viewpoint on life.

See the trailer, interviews and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic content including some sexual material)  

The Kid with a Bike

(Sundance Selects) Cecile de France, Thomas Doret, Jeremie Renier, Egon Di Mateo. A young boy is abandoned by his father who leaves him with only a bicycle. The boy reasons that the father must still care something for him since the bike was left. He is taken under the wing of a kindly hairdresser who finds herself caring for the boy despite his erratic behavior and troubled nature. His search for a father figure may threaten the last relationship he has yet if he isn’t careful.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements, violence, brief language and smoking)  

Monsieur Lazhar

(Music Box) Mohammed Fellag, Sophie Nelisse, Emilien Neron, Danielle Proulx.  A Montreal middle school class, devastated by the suicide of their teacher whose body was discovered by one of their number, is given a new teacher who has some baggage of his own. Cinema365 saw this as part of the recent Florida Film Festival, the review for which can be read here.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic material, a disturbing image and brief language)

The Illusionist (L’illusionniste)


The Illusionist

The Scottish audiences were most pleased when the Illusionist conjured Scotch out of thin air.

(2010) Animated Feature (Sony Classics) Starring the voices of Jean-Claude Donda, Eilidh Rankin, Duncan MacNeil, Raymond Mearns, James T. Muir, Tom Urie, Paul Bandey. Directed by Sylvain Chomet

 

There comes a time in life when we realize that the world has moved on without us. Very few of us can keep up with progress, particularly when the careers we’ve labored at all our lives have been rendered obsolete, either through technology or simply through changing tastes. It is bittersweet; the sadness that which we have labored at no longer matters, but there is also a freedom in it as well.

Monsieur Jacques Tatischeff (Donda) is a stage musician and a good one. He has played all the finest music halls and vaudeville theaters in Europe. Now, it is the 1950s and the 1960s are right around the corner and the audience for his kind of entertainment is shrinking. Once a headliner, he is reduced to taking whatever bookings he can and has found himself in Edinburgh.

He has caught the attention of Alice (Rankin), the young chambermaid at the hotel he is staying in. She is dewy-eyed and innocent, her eyes wide and open, amazed by the illusions Monsieur Tatischeff conjures. His act has convinced her that there is real magic in the world and that Monsieur Tatischeff has access to it.

For his part, Monsieur Tatischeff is touched at the attention he is receiving – one last true fan. He looks upon Alice as the daughter he never had and showers her were gifts – new shoes, new dresses. He can’t afford them on the meager pay of his bookings, so he works odd jobs when he’s not onstage so that he can buy these things for Alice, who thinks he has conjured these fine things out of air. He wants her to continue thinking that.

But this is one illusion even a master Illusionist like Monsieur Tatischeff can maintain indefinitely and soon he is faced with the wrenching choice of revealing the truth to Alice or continuing the lie. Reality is fast catching up to him as it does with us all.

Chomet was the auteur behind the much-acclaimed The Triplets of Belleville. The script he’s working off of here was written by the great French comedian and actor Jacques Tati, who wrote this back in 1959 but for some reason never got around to filming it as a live-action film although there is evidence that he intended to. This is said to be a highly personal work for him; the Alice character may represent a daughter that he abandoned, although Chomet has said that Alice was really Sophie, the younger daughter who first gave Chomet the script to produce as an animated feature.

The movie is hand-drawn rather than computer generated. This process is tedious and labor-intensive and rarely used since Pixar took over the animation market. It also renders the movie more beautifully, resembling paintings more than anything else. This is animated art folks and is as beautiful looking (even in its tedious Edinburgh scenes) as you’re likely to see.

There is almost no dialogue – Chomet prefers to make his work more universal, so most of the sounds you hear are wordless, like acrobats exclaiming “Hep! Hep! Hep!” as they bounce around the screen. There are sighs and cries, but few words. In many ways this is like a silent movie, relying on the characters to tell the story without using extraneous words.

Tati was inspired by Charlie Chaplin (and there are those who consider him France’s Chaplin) and in a sense, this is a movie that Chaplin would likely have approved of. There is some pathos and the comedy is quirky and well choreographed. There is a definite melancholic air however that might be off-putting for some; after all, this is supposed to be at its heart about a father-daughter relationship. However, it is also about the end of an era, about a man having to accept that what he had done for a living all his life was no longer meaningful. There is nothing funny about be rendered obsolete, but there can be a catharsis in it and Chomet finds it.

This is a beautiful movie, if you can find beauty in sadness. There is some joy here as well, but I walked away from it feeling like you do after you’ve had a good cry although I shed no tears while I watched. It is certainly different than the offerings of Pixar and Studio Ghibli, the two leaders in modern animation. It didn’t connect with the audience sadly, although it did get an Oscar nomination. It’s one of those movies that a lot of people kind of turned their noses up at, but it is also one of those films that if you give it half a chance you are likely to fall under it’s spell.

WHY RENT THIS: Beautifully hand drawn with a marvelously bittersweet story on aging and growing irrelevant.  

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Almost no dialogue and a melancholic feel.

FAMILY VALUES: Some of the themes here might be a bit difficult for smaller children to work through. There are also numerous depictions of smoking.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The Illusionist’s stage name, Jacques Tatischeff, is the real name of Jacques Tati who wrote the script.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There is an interesting feature that shows a scene being animated from storyboard to finished product.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $5.6M on a $17M production budget; sadly, the movie was a box office flop.

FINAL RATING: 8/10

NEXT: Attack the Block