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)

Monsieur Lazhar


Monsieur Lazhar

The face may be smiling but it's the eyes that are haunted.

(2011) Drama (Music Box) Mohamed Fellag, Sophie Nelisse, Emilien Neron, Danielle Proulx, Brigitte Poupart, Jules Philip, Daniel Gadouas, Seddik Benslimane, Marie-Eve Beauregard, Louis Champagne, Andre Robitaille, Francine Ruel, Helena Laliberte. Directed by Philippe Falardeau

 

We tend to take for granted what a strong impression teachers make on the lives of our students. Most of us can remember at least one teacher whose influence lasted throughout our lives. The student-teacher relationship can be a strong one.

In a middle-class middle school in Montreal that seems to be true. One day, however, Simon (Neron), a student in the middle school, comes to his classroom early to distribute milk and snack for the kids and discovers his teacher, Martine Lachance (Laliberte) hanging. One other student, Alice (Nelisse) also sees the body of her teacher.

The suicide shakes up everyone in the school. The principal, Madame Vaillancourt (Proulx) avails the class of a therapist but knows she has to find a teacher to fill the spot. As it is the middle of the school year, not many teachers want to fill in for a dead woman, particularly one who died so publically. However in walks Monsieur Bachir Lazhar (Fellag) who has 19 years of experience teaching in Algeria.

With no other options, Vaillancourt hires the quiet, softly smiling Algerian. At first he and his class have a rocky start. Lazhar is far more formal than the beloved Martine, ordering the desks in rows rather than the semi-circle Martine had utilized. He is also to give a misbehaving kid a little smack upside the head which of course is a strict no-no in the more liberal Canadian educational system than he’s used to.

Slowly, the kids start taking to Monsieur Lazhar, whose gentle nature seems to cut through the negative feelings they have. In fact, it seems that the kids are adjusting to the loss of Martine much better than the adults with one exception – Simon. Simon is acting out and it soon becomes apparent that he’d had some kind of run-in with Martine that might have had something to do with her decision to do what she did, particularly when she knew that it was Simon who would find her.

But it might just be Alice who has the most difficult time adjusting. And on top of that, Monsieur Lazhar has some secrets of his own. Something that has caused his smile to be so sad. Despite the efforts of comely fellow teacher Claire (Poupart), Monsieur Lazhar might just be the most wounded soul of them all.

Movies that have children dealing with death are few in number and those that are out there are generally treacly in nature, as are those that try to deal with the student-teacher bond. Monsieur Lazhar is anything but that. It takes kids, puts them in a situation that could happen to any kid and then lets them be kids.

The kids are wonderful here; there is no posturing and it really doesn’t seem like they’re acting, a major fault among most juvenile actors. Instead, they react to the things happening around them the way most kids do – sometimes in an annoying manner, sometimes rambunctiously and other times thoughtfully. This helps elevate the movie into something far more real and compelling. Particularly exceptional are Nelisse and Neron, both who show virtuoso abilities. Should they choose to pursue acting, they both have promising careers ahead.

Fellag is marvelous himself. He carries himself with great dignity and gentle self-effacing humor here. He imbues the character with great decency, but never lets us forget the pain that is just below the surface. As what the cause of that pain is revealed, one marvels once again at human resiliency; I don’t know if I could stir myself out of bed with all that Monsieur Lazhar is carrying around with him. Fellag displays that pain not through his dialogue but through his eyes. He may have that soft smile you see above but every time you get a good look in his eyes it becomes obvious that the man is bearing a terrible burden. It’s a shame that he didn’t get Best Actor consideration at the Oscars this year – he deserved at least a look.

This movie handles things in a kind of low-key manner. Other than the scene at the beginning of the film where Simon discovers Martine, everything takes place here at a kind of slow-paced quietude. Sure the kids scream and yell as kids do but the scenes here aren’t doing so; the action is subtle but authentic. There are a lot of nice little touches – personal effects for example play an important role in the movie, as does snow – both as allegories. I found myself wrapped up in the film and the people in it; I wanted to be part of it, talking to the characters and helping them get through that. A film that inspires that kind of compassionate urge is not only one to be respected and admired, it is one to be sought out, even if you must go out of your way to do so.

REASONS TO GO: Moving and ultimately unforgettable. Juvenile cast comes through magnificently.

REASONS TO STAY: Very low-key which some may find difficult to deal with.

FAMILY VALUES: The themes here are pretty adult and there’s one image that might be disturbing for the sensitive. There are also a couple of not-so-nice words here and there.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year as was In Darkness, a Polish-Canadian co-production which marks the first time in history that two movies with Canadian connections were nominated in that category.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/17/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 93% positive reviews. Metacritic: 82/100. The reviews are stellar.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: To Sir With Love

SNOW GEAR LOVERS: The kids (and adults) have a plethora of different snow apparel and accoutrements on display for those looking to enhance or upgrade their snow season wardrobe.

FINAL RATING: 9/10

NEXT: Jiro Dreams of Sushi