Teen Spirit (2018)


Who said pop stardom isn’t easy?

(2018) Musical (Bleecker Street/LD Entertainment) Elle Fanning, Zlatko Buric, Rebecca Hall, Agnieszka Grochowska, Archie Madekwe, Millie Brady, Vivian Oparah, Marius de Vries, Elizabeth Berrington, Olive Gray, Andrew Ellis, Ruairi O’Connor, Jordan Stephens, Tamara Luz Ronchese, Clara Rugaard, Daisy Lowe, Ursula Holliday. Directed by Max Minghella

 

I think it’s fair to say (and I think that most teens and millennials would agree) that the world is constructed to kill dreams. Those that want to be creative, expressive or otherwise different are discouraged; laboring at some soul-killing task over and over again is what’s expected. Nobody in their right mind wants to do that for the rest of their lives; some really don’t have much of a choice. Those that have talent though, we seem to spend an inordinate amount of time discouraging it.

Violet (Fanning) lives on the bucolic Isle of Wight off the coast of England, a place forever immortalized by the Beatles in ”When I’m Sixty-Four” thusly: “Every summer we could rent a cottage on the Isle of Wight (if it’s not too dear)” as well as a famous pop festival that took place there. Musically, that’s pretty much it for the Isle of Wight. It does possess a large Polish population of which Violet and her mother (Grochowska) are members of. Violet goes to school (she’s 17 years old), takes care of the horse that she rides whenever she can, works as a waitress in a pub after school and occasionally sings in a different pub; it is the last of these that mum disapproves of as being impractical so Violet has to do it on the sly. However, she does meet an alcoholic ex-opera singer who offers to be her manager so there’s that.

The family is in pretty dire financial straits; the horse gets repossessed because they can’t afford to pay for it any longer. Violet’s life is going exactly nowhere and she is frustrated as anyone would be. Then, a bit of excitement; the American Idol-like pop music competition show Teen Spirit is holding auditions in her town for the very first time and nearly everyone in school is trying out. Shy Violet decides to try out and to nobody’s surprise, she is selected for the local competition. To nobody else’s surprise, she ends up going to the finals in London which are televised. However, she needs a parent or guardian to sign off on her participation which her mother will never do so Violet remembers Vlad (Buric), the alcoholic ex-opera singer and puts him to work as her manager/instant guardian.

The rest of the movie you can pretty much figure out for yourself. There are a couple of swerves that aren’t particularly hard to see coming as well as some predictable moments of fame going to Violet’s head and a few heart-warming moments in between all the gaudily shot music videos of her performances, all bathed in pink and blue neon and looking like a New York art installation from the early 90s. That’s not bad in and of itself but it does kind of scream “LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!”  in an unnecessarily loud cinematic voice.

Fanning is a talented performer as an actress and not a half-bad singer to boot but her character, who is supposed to be terribly shy and innocent (except when she’s not) is so passive and bland that it’s hard to figure out why she would want to stand up in front of a television audience and pour her heart out onstage. We never get a sense as to why Violet is motivated to become a singer other than she likes doing it.

The songs that Violet and her competition perform are mainly covers of iconic pop songs over the last 20 years, many of which have to do with female empowerment which is part of the ostensible thrust of the film, although one has to consider the fact that Violet and her mother struggle mightily on their own but once a man comes in to the picture for guidance success is theirs. It seems quite at odds with the musical message the film seems hell-bent on sending.

But even though Violet is more vanilla, the relationship between her and Vlad is at least genuine and comprises the heart and soul of the film. Even though Vlad is a polar opposite to Violet, his gruff exterior masks a teddy bear interior that genuinely cares for Violet and wants her to succeed not for his own aggrandizement but for hers.

The performance footage is mainly over-produced; it’s telling that the most genuine and affecting performance is when Violet dances and sings No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” in the privacy of her own bedroom; it’s raw and feels more authentic. That seems to be one of the few moments when we get a glimpse of who Violet truly is. We could have used more of them.

At the end of the day, this movie comes down to whether or not you like American Idol. If fresh-faced young people performing covers of familiar songs for the right to become a pop star in their own right is something that thrills you, chances are you’re going to love this film. If you find American Idol to be a cynical means of keeping potential pop stars as disposable product rather than genuine artists, you probably won’t care much for this film. Me, I tend to lean towards the latter but that doesn’t mean you won’t find something in the film to like.

REASONS TO SEE: The relationship between Violet and Vlad is believable and at the center of the film.
REASONS TO AVOID: The story needs more fleshing out.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some sexually suggestive content as well as depictions of teen drinking and smoking.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: There are parallels to the film Flashdance and the theme from that film is even used in this one.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/22/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 70% positive reviews: Metacritic: 57/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: American Dreamz
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
Marching Forward

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New Releases for the Week of April 19, 2019


THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA

(New Line) Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velasquez, Tony Amendola, Marisol Ramirez, Sean Patrick Thomas, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen. Directed by Michael Chaves

A young social worker and her kids find themselves being stalked by the legendary La Llorona, the Weeping Woman. In order to save her family, the social worker must put their lives in the hands of a disillusioned priest who is practicing a strange sort of mysticism taking them to a realm where faith and fear collide.

See the trailer, a clip and a video featurette here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for violence and terror)

Breakthrough

(20th Century Fox) Chrissy Metz, Josh Lucas, Topher Grace, Mike Colter. Based on a true story, this film dramatizes the story of the Smith family whose son falls through the ice into a lake. Miraculously he survives but in a coma. His mother marshals her family, friends and neighbors to begin a national prayer campaign to save her son.

See the trailer, clips and video featurettes here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Christian Family Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for thematic content including peril)

Finding Julia

(XL141) Andrew McCarthy, Ha Phuong, Kieu Chinh, Richard Chamberlain. A Eurasian acting student is having trouble fitting in, caught between East and West. Recurrent nightmares about the accident that took her mother’s life begin to make her question her own sanity.

No trailer currently available
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Mystery
Now Playing: Regal Oviedo Marketplace
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic material, sexuality, violent/bloody images, and language)

High Life

(A24) Stephen Eric McIntyre, Timothy Olyphant, Joe Anderson, Rossif Sutherland. A quartet of drug-addicted petty criminals get set to pull out what they think is a foolproof heist robbing bank ATMs by posing as repairmen but things don’t go quite as planned as is usually the case for that sort.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for drug use, pervasive language and some violence)

Kalank

(FiP) Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt, Madhuri Dixit, Sanjay Dutt. A small village on the Northern Indian frontier goes through severe changes as the partitioning of the country is about to get underway. A forbidden romance unearths secrets long buried and rivalries long simmering as violence threatens to overwhelm love.

See the trailer and clips here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Romance
Now Playing: Cinemark Universal Citywalk, Touchstar Southchase
Rating: NR

Penguins

(DisneyNature) Ed Helms (narrator). Steve, an Adėlie penguin in the Antarctic, hopes to start a family in the frozen wasteland of the South Pole, but nothing ever comes easy in the most inhospitable place on earth.

See the trailer, interviews, video featurettes and B-roll video here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Nature Documentary
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: G

Peterloo

(Amazon) Rory Kinnear, Maxine Peake, Tim McInnerny, David Bamber. In 1813 a cavalry charge into a peaceful crowd demonstrating for democratic reform in a field near Manchester became known as the Peterloo Massacre. Oscar-winning director Mike Leigh brings this mostly forgotten historical event back to life.

See the trailer and video featurettes here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Historical Drama
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village, Rialto Spanish Springs Square
Rating: PG-13 (for a scene of violence and chaos)

Teen Spirit

(Bleecker Street) Elle Fanning, Rebecca Hall, Zlatko Buric, Agnieszka Grochowska. A shy teen on the Isle of Wight impulsively enters a national singing contest and to everyone’s surprise makes it all the way to the finals. Her manager, a former opera star, tries to help her navigate the pitfalls of stardom but will it be enough?

See the trailer, video featurettes and a clip here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Musical
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs, Barnstorm Theater, Cinemark Universal Citywalk, Cobb Daytona, Regal Oviedo Marketplace, Regal Pointe Orlando, Regal Port Orange Pavilion, Regal Waterford Lakes
Rating: PG-13 (for some suggestive content, and for teen drinking and smoking)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Athiran
Daddy Issues
Her Smell
Jersey
Kavaludaari
Last Fool Show
Little Woods
The Pilgrim’s Progress

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE:

3 Faces
Amazing Grace
Athiran
Jersey
Kavaludaari
The Pilgrim’s Progress
Ramen Shop
Yellaipookal

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG:

Amazing Grace
Athiran
Drunk Parents
Jersey
Kanchana 3
Kavaludaari
The Pilgrim’s Progress
Stuck
Yellaipookal

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Amazing Grace
Athiran
The Brink
Dead Man
Her Smell
Jersey
Kavaludaari
The Pilgrim’s Progress
Woman at War

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

The Curse of La Llorona
Little Woods
Penguins
Ramen Shop
Teen Spirit

FILM FESTIVALS TAKING PLACE IN FLORIDA:

Florida Film Festival, Maitland/Winter Park FL

New Releases for the Week of June 1, 2018


ADRIFT

(STX) Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin, Grace Palmer, Jeffrey Thomas, Elizabeth Hawthorne, Tami Ashcraft, Kael Damlamian. Directed by Baltasar Kormákur

A young couple meets over their love of sailing, bond and fall in love. When the opportunity arrives to set out on the adventure of a lifetime, they don’t realize they are sailing into the teeth of one of the most destructive hurricanes in recorded history. The damage is terrible; the young man is gravely injured and the boat damaged beyond repair. It will take the young woman all her skill and resolve to save the only man she has ever loved – not to mention saving herself.

See the trailer, video featurettes, clips, interviews and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Adventure
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for injury images, peril, language, brief drug use, partial nudity and thematic elements)

Action Point

(Paramount) Johnny Knoxville, Brigitte Lundy-Paine, Susan Yeagley, Dana Schick. A daredevil with a penchant for hare-brained schemes opens up a theme park with his friends. You’ve never seen a theme park anything like this..

See the trailer, interviews and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for crude sexual content, language, drug use, teen drinking, and brief graphic nudity)

Always at the Carlyle

(Good Deed) George Clooney, Tommy Lee Jones, Jon Hamm, Jeff Goldblum. New York’s iconic Carlyle Hotel is not only a destination for jet-setters but also a favorite haunt for New York’s most trendy and iconic local celebs.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: PG-13 (for some suggestive content, drug references and brief partial nudity)

How to Talk to Girls at Parties

(A24) Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Ruth Wilson, Alex Sharp. An alien on a tour of the galaxy gets separated from her group and ends up in the London suburb of Croydon during the late 70s punk revolution. This is based on a Neil Gaiman story and is directed by the estimable John Cameron Mitchell.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy
Now Playing: AMC Universal Cineplex, Enzian Theater

Rating: R (for language throughout, sexual content, some drug use and nudity)

The Rider

(Sony Classics) Brady Jandreau, Tim Jandreau, Lily Jandreau, Cat Clifford. A young cowboy suffers a near-fatal head injury. Needing to establish an identity with much of his old self lost, he must figure out what it means to be a man in the heart of America in the age of Trump.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village, Rialto Spanish Springs Square

Rating: R (for language and drug use)

Social Animals

(Vertical) Josh Radnor, Carly Chaikin, Samira Wiley, Zoë Wells. Young Zoë finds her life spiraling into chaos. Her business is going under, she’s being evicted from her home and her love life is essentially a series of one-night stands going nowhere. That all changes when she meets Paul, a fellow lovable loser with whom instantly connects. She seems to have found her perfect guy; the trouble is, he’s married. However, that won’t stand in the way of her true love and her bold plan to save her business.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: AMC Universal Cineplex

Rating: R (for strong and crude sexual content, language and drug use)

Upgrade

(BH Tilt) Logan Marshall-Green, Betty Gabriel, Richard Cawthorne, Harrison Gilbertson. In the not-so-distant future, technology controls every aspect of our lives. For one man, a self-proclaimed technophobe who wants nothing of the brave new world, life goes tumbling head over heels and out of control when he is paralyzed during a mugging and the person he loves most in the world is brutally murdered. Unable to move, his only hope to get justice – or more accurately, vengeance – is to have a chip inserted into his spine that will restore his body to working order. But for all things there is a price.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Science Fiction
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for strong violence, grisly images, and language)

Veere di Wedding

(Zee Studios) Kareena Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar, Sumeet Vyas. Four childhood friends are reunited ten years later in Delhi where they grew up and find that while the bonds of friendship remain strong, they have each changed. Re-exploring their childhood homes, they discover how much has changed in society, in their hopes and dreams and in the culture they grew up in.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: AMC West Oaks
Rating: NR

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Ee Maa Yove
Officer
Sanky Panky 3

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE:

Abhimanyudu
B Tech
Bye Bye Germany
Ee Maa Yove
The Gospel According to Andre
Raju Gadu
Sanky Panky 3
The Seagull

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG:

Abhimanyudu
Officer
Raju Gadu
Sanky Panky 3

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Abhimanyudu
Borg/McEnroe
Officer
Raju Gadu
Sanky Panky 3

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Adrift
Borg/McEnroe
Upgrade

FILM FESTIVALS TAKING PLACE IN FLORIDA:

Studio Ghibli Fest – Miami

The Vanishing of Sidney Hall (Sidney Hall)


The Hollywood version of a writer hard at work.

(2017) Drama (A24) Logan Lerman, Elle Fanning, Michelle Monaghan, Kyle Chandler, Janina Gavankar, Margaret Qualley, Nathan Lane, Blake Jenner, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Tim Blake Nelson, Michael Drayer, Christine Brucato, Alex Karpovsky, Darren Pettie, David Alan Basche, John Trejo, Danny Cullen, Richard Beal, Ryan Willard, Cris Williams, Stephanie Purpuri. Directed by Shawn Christensen

 

From time to time, people who are at the top of their field, wrapped in success and fame, who simply walk away. It’s an irresistible story for the rest of us who wonder why those folks give up what the rest of us dream of. It is a sign of the prurient side of ourselves.

Sidney Hall (Lerman) is a gifted writer. Ask him; he’ll tell you so. We meet him in a high school writing class in which he has been tasked with writing an essay on the meaning of life. What he delivers is a treatise on his willingness to masturbate over a popular cheerleader and his feeling that he’s wasting his efforts on it. Needless to say, this doesn’t impress the tightly wound English teacher much.

Duane (Abdul-Mateen) knows that Sidney is just breaking the balls of the teacher who doesn’t understand him. He acts as kind of a mentor (and later a literary agent) to Sidney, delivering him to a prestigious publishing house and it’s acerbic editor (Lane). Sidney’s first novel, about the suicide of a high school student, becomes not only a bestseller but a cultural phenomenon and makes him wealthy and a bit of a rock star.

But Sidney’s personal life is a shambles. He left home, getting away from his shrill and controlling mother (Monaghan) and with his high school sweetheart Melody (Fanning) who later becomes his wife. But success breeds some not so pleasant side effects and Sidney’s marriage is crumbling as he becomes more and more self-absorbed. After losing the Pulitzer to another writer and devastated at the end of his marriage, Sidney abruptly disappears from public view.

A series of arsons in bookstores and libraries in which Sidney’s books alone are targeted for burning puts a detective (Chandler) on the trail of Sidney, who has at this point become something of a hobo, riding the rails with his dog Homer. But what motivated Sidney to walk away from everything? What is inside the mysterious box he dug up with his jock friend Brett Newport (Jenner)? Who is the mysterious detective chasing him and why is he so keen to find him? There are ghosts haunting Sidney Hall and perhaps that is why he wants to become one himself.

Director Shawn Christensen has enormous talent; it was clearly on display in his last movie Before I Disappear and there are moments where you can see it in this film. Unfortunately, this is much more of a mess than his last movie was. Christensen has three separate timelines interweaving with one another; Sidney’s last weeks in high school as his relationship with Melody begins and his relationship with Brett is explained. There’s also the apex of his career as a successful writer in his 20s in which his nascent ego has reached full flower, alienating him from just about everyone including his wife. Finally we see him as a lonely and just about psychotic wanderer, cloaked in self-loathing and with only a dog for company.

There are a lot of revelations in the film and to be honest some of them work, others are more on the ludicrous side. Lerman is a fine actor but he’s unconvincing here particularly in some crucial scenes which quite frankly undermines the whole she-bang. He also has almost no chemistry with Fanning whose character is so massively cliché that we’re banging our heads against the wall in frustration.

There are a lot of clichés on display here; the writer in his study, a glass of whiskey beside him, cigarette smoke curling up from his keyboard as he ponders the weight of his next few words. There is in fact a great deal of pretentiousness here, from the condescending dialogue to the portrait of the writer as a young snot. Although we find out near the end of the film that Sidney has suffered greatly at the hands of life, by that time it’s really too late to rescue the character from being someone we can’t stand to be around for very long – and we’re forced to hang out with him for nearly two hours.

Yes, the movie is much too long and feels padded out with gratuitous misery. We get it, Sidney’s life sucks and success isn’t all it’s cut out to be yadda yadda yadda. It doesn’t help that the leaping back and forth from timeline to timeline is done with leaden hands, leaving the audience frustrated yet again.

The sad thing is that there really is a good film somewhere in here. The cast is strong top to bottom and the performances are for the most part compelling; Nathan Lane brings some well-needed levity to the movie and Blake Jenner is surprisingly strong in his role as well. This just feels like a director trying to spread his wings but for whatever reason he plummets from his perch to make a great big ker-splat on the ground. I’m hoping this is just a misstep for Christensen and that we can still expect better things from him in the future. This isn’t going to be one of the highlights on his resume though.

The film is just hitting theaters after a month-long run on DirecTV. It is also still available there for subscribers to that satellite service. Expect it on a larger array of streaming services in the near future if you’re of a mind to see it.

REASONS TO GO: Nathan Lane is always a hoot. There are some really nice cinematic moments. The cast does pretty well in general.
REASONS TO STAY: The storytelling is disjointed and frustrating. The movie goes on way too long. The dialogue and plot are way too pretentious.
FAMILY VALUES: There is plenty of profanity including some sexual references.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Lerman plays Sidney as a high school student, in his 20s and lastly in his 30s; Lerman is actually 25 years old.
BEYOND THE THEATER: Vudu
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/3/17: Rotten Tomatoes: 10% positive reviews. Metacritic: 18/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Listen Up, Philip
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
Submission

New Releases for the Week of March 2, 2018


RED SPARROW

(20th Century Fox) Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Ciarán Hinds, Joely Richardson. Directed by Francis Lawrence

A ballerina is recruited for the Soviet-era “Sparrow School” in which beautiful young women are trained to be ruthless assassins, using their sexuality as a weapon. She is given the target of a CIA agent with whom she develops feelings for. She is playing a dangerous game and there is no way to know who to trust. Her own agency is after her and her beloved mother; the only way out may be to betray all that she was.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, video featurettes and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard, Dolby Atmos, IMAX
Genre: Spy Action
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for strong violence, torture, sexual content, language and some graphic nudity)

A Fantastic Woman

(Sony Classics) Daniela Vidal, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco, Aline Kupperheim. Marina is a transsexual woman who works as a waitress and moonlights as a nightclub singer. It is hard enough to survive as a transsexual in Latin America but when her boyfriend abruptly dies she is left floundering and wondering if she can go on.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for language, sexual content, nudity and a disturbing assault)

Death Wish

(Annapurna/MGM) Bruce Willis, Elisabeth Shue, Vincent D’Onofrio, Camilla Morrone. A family man whose wife and daughter are brutally attacked becomes a vigilante when he finds that the police can’t help him find justice – so he goes after the perpetrators himself. This is Eli Roth’s version of the classic Charles Bronson revenge thriller.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Action 
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for strong bloody violence and language throughout)

Nostalgia

(Bleecker Street) Jon Hamm, Catherine Keener, Bruce Dern, Ellen Burstyn. This is an anthology of tales about loss and love, and the artifacts, memories and emotions that shape our lives.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs, Regal Winter Park Village, Rialto Spanish Springs Square

Rating: R (for some language)

The Vanishing of Sidney White

(A24) Michelle Monaghan, Elle Fanning, Logan Lerman, Kyle Chandler. A young writer pens a bestseller about the death of a high school classmate. As the controversy surrounding his hit novel grows, his relationship with his girlfriend disintegrates and at last he disappears without a trace. A decade later a dogged detective searches for the legendary author when his cult classic book is linked to a string of arsons. Florida Film Festival alumnus Shawn Christensen co-wrote and directed this.

See the trailer and an interview here.
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Mystery
Now Playing: AMC Universal Cineplex

Rating: R (for language and some sexual references)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Dance Academy: The Comeback

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE:

Dance Academy: The Comeback
In Between
Let Yourself Go
The Lullaby
The Party

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG:

Dance Academy: The Comeback
Pari

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

None

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Death Wish
Red Sparrow
The Vanishing of Sidney White

FILM FESTIVALS TAKING PLACE IN FLORIDA:

WineFest: Wine’s World, Tampa

The Beguiled (2017)


Melancholia through sepia gauze.

(2017) Thriller (Focus) Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke, Emma Howard, Wayne Pére, Matt Story, Joel Albin, Eric Ian. Directed by Sofia Coppola

 

It is in some ways a triumph of atmosphere over substance. This remake of a 1971 Clint Eastwood film – one of two he made with Don Siegel that year (the other was Dirty Harry) which was in turn based on a novel by a fella named Thomas Cullinan comes at the story from a female perspective, something Hollywood sorely needs these days.

During the Civil War, an isolated girl’s school in Virginia (which is unconvincingly played by Louisiana here) tries to maintain gentility and grace in a rapidly deteriorating situation. The slaves have “run off” and so the girls are given chores to do. Food is becoming harder to come by and one of the younger residents, Miss Amy (Laurence) stumbles upon a wounded Union soldier, Corporal McBurney (Farrell). Although headmistress Miss Martha (Kidman) considers turning him in to the Confederate Army, she chooses to hide his presence while he’s recuperating as it is the “Christian thing to do.” The opportunistic McBurney recognizes a sweet deal and sets about exerting control over the girls using his own charm and sexuality to pit them against each other, particularly the lonely schoolmarm Miss Edwina (Dunst) and the sexually charged Miss Alicia (Fanning). As you can guess from the trailers, it doesn’t end well for the male of the species.

Coppola is known for her slow pacing in her films and in this case the pace matches the setting; dripping in Spanish moss, you can feel the heat rising from the ground right through to the dresses of the ladies, all of whom sweat profusely – excuse me, glow. It is clearly a Deep South environment; I wonder why Coppola didn’t just bite the bullet and call it Louisiana as that would have made more sense but I digress.

In some ways the tone works but in others it works against the film. At times the story moves so slowly that one can be forgiven for checking their watch. It’s not that the film is boring precisely but it could have used some energy; Da Queen characterized the movie as “a bit flat” and she’s not wrong. Still, you can’t help but be brought into the organic lull that Coppola creates.

Farrell is one of the best scoundrels in Hollywood and he takes it to a new level here. Kidman is still as ethereal a beauty as has ever appeared onscreen but she is also a much more talented actress than she is often given credit for; she is solid here and her sponge bathing scene with an unconscious Farrell is one of the most erotic scenes you’re likely to see in a mainstream movie this year. Dunst, playing a repressed and lonely spinster elevates her game as well.

The movie was a box office failure although critics praised the movie generally, which is not an unusual thing. I thought the film was a fascinating study of sexual politics and of feminine strength, a near polar-opposite of the 1971 version and, I understand, the novel although I confess I haven’t read it. This is one of Coppola’s best works and it bears looking into especially if you are a fan of thought-provoking films.

REASONS TO GO: The movie does a fine job of creating the feel of the Civil War-era South. The film serves as an interesting examination on sexual politics.
REASONS TO STAY: At points the sedate pace makes the film feel flat.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some sexuality and adult situations.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Farrell and Kidman can also be seen together in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, which along with this film won awards at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, Fandango Now, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/15/17: Rotten Tomatoes: 78% positive reviews. Metacritic: 74/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Keeping Room
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT:
Baby Driver

New Releases for the Week of August 18, 2017


THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD

(Summit) Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek, Elodie Yung, Richard E. Grant, Joaquim de Almeida, Sam Hazeldine. Directed by Patrick Hughes

A vicious dictator is going on trial in front of the international court and only one man can put him away – one of the world’s most successful assassins. However, the ex-fearless leader has put out a hit on the hitman and things don’t look good for him to make it to the trial. A bodyguard is assigned to the killer and it has to be said the two don’t exactly hit it off but if they are going to survive they’ll have to put aside their differences or die in a really spectacular fashion.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Action Comedy
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for strong violence and language throughout)

Brigsby Bear

(Sony Classics) Kyle Mooney, Mark Hamill, Jane Adams, Greg Kinnear. The children’s television show Brigsby Bear Adventures has been playing for an audience of one – James. When the show abruptly ends, James is motivated to finish the story himself taking him into a land of imagination he never knew he had within him.

See the trailer, clips and an interview here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, Barnstorm Theater, Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements, brief sexuality, drug material and teen partying)

Dawson City: Frozen Time

(Kino Lorber) Bill Morrison, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Kathy Jones-Gates, Michael Gates. In 1978, a bulldozer working its way through a parking lot in Dawson City, a former gold rush town in the Yukon and discovered a cache of over 500 films that had been buried there since the silent film era. Many of the films had been thought to be lost forever. After an extensive restoration process, the newsreels and films are ready to be shown to the public, depicting an era in history and in Dawson City itself that is long gone. This film has been described as being like stepping into a time capsule.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian Theater

Rating: NR

Leap!

(Weinstein) Starring the voices of Elle Fanning, Dane DeHaan, Carly Rae Jepsen, Maddie Ziegler. An orphan girl who dreams of being a prima ballerina travels from Brittany to Paris to follow her dream. A case of mistaken identity leads her to become a pupil at the Grand Opera House in a Paris that is full of enchantment, music and magic.

See the trailer and a clip here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG (for some impolite humor and action)

Logan Lucky

(Bleecker Street) Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Katie Holmes. Two brothers, cursed by bad luck all their lives, attempt to steal a windfall of cash from the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Enlisting the aid of Joe Bang, one of the great demolition experts of all time, they merely have to break him out of prison where he is in-car-cer-rated and then get him back inside without anyone noticing. Piece of cake. Incidentally, this is Steven Soderburgh’s return to the big screen in like four years. Think of this as the unholy love child of The Dukes of Hazzard, <em and Oceans 11.

See the trailer, clips and featurettes here.
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Action Comedy
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for language and some crude comments)

Lost in Paris

(Oscilloscope Laboratories) Fiona Gordon, Dominique Abel, Emmanuelle Riva, Pierre Richard. Fiona visits Paris for the first time in her life to assist her Aunt Martha. Fiona has always repressed her feelings but when she meets Dom, a homeless man who is absolutely unafraid of expressing his feelings or his thoughts. The City of Lights will never be the same.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and B-roll video here
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: NR

Step

(Fox Searchlight) Paula Dofat, Blessin Giraldo, Cori Grainger, Tayla Solomon. This documentary follows a step dancing team from inner city Baltimore as they embark on competitions throughout the city and navigate their senior year in high school.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs, Cinemark Artegon Marketplace, Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: PG (for thematic elements and some language)

Turn it Around: The Story of East Bay Punk

(Abramorama) Billy Joe Armstrong, Iggy Pop, Jello Biafra, Laurence Livermore. San Francisco has always been the center of the Bay Area music scene. For a brief shining moment, a group of committed men and women ran a punk co-op out of a former warehouse in Berkeley that became a creative cauldron that changed the face of punk music – and pop culture – forever and put the East Bay in the forefront of the Bay Area musical firmament.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Musical Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian Theater

Rating: NR

Wind River

(Weinstein) Jeremy Renner, Graham Greene, Tantoo Cardinal, Elizabeth Olsen. A grisly murder scene is discovered on a Native American tribal reservation. An FBI agent is called in to investigate and he ends up teaming with a veteran game tracker to run the killer to ground.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Thriller
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, Amstar Lake Mary, Cinemark Artegon Marketplace, Regal Waterford Lakes, Regal Winter Park Village, Rialto Spanish Springs

Rating: R (for strong violence, a rape, disturbing images, and language)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Bareilly Ki Barfi
Fairy Tale: Dragon Cry
From the Land of the Moon
Imperfections
Shot Caller

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI:

Anando Brahma
Fairy Tale: Dragon Cry
Menashe
Once Upon a Time 3D
The Only Living Boy in New York
The Untamed
Whose Streets?

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA:

6 Days
Anando Brahma
The Ancient Magus Bride
Bareilly Ki Barfi
Fairy Tale: Dragon City
The Midwife
Shot Caller

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE:

68 Kill
Anando Brahma
The Ancient Magus Bride

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

68 Kill
Brigsby Bear
Dawson City: Frozen in Time
The Hitman’s Bodyguard
Logan Lucky
Menashe
The Only Living Boy in New York
Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk
Whose Streets?
Wind River