New Releases for the Week of September 6, 2013


Riddick

RIDDICK

(Universal) Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Jordi Molla, Katee Sackhoff, Bokeem Woodbine, Dave Bautista, Conrad Pla, Matt Nable, Keri Hilson. Directed by David Twohy

Riddick, one of the most dangerous men in the Universe, has been abandoned and left for dead on a hellish rock. Bounty hunters are on their way to collect him and they’re not too picky what shape he’s in when they turn him in. However, Riddick isn’t the only dangerous thing on this planet and the bounty hunters soon realize that their only chance for survival may be the very man they’ve come to take – only he may be harder to contain than the murderous creatures that live there.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, IMAX (opens Thursday)

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: PG-13 (for strong violence, language and some sexual content/nudity)

Bounty Killer

(ARC Entertainment) Matthew Marsden, Kristanna Loken, Gary Busey, Beverly D’Angelo. Twenty years after corporate greed brought the planet to its knees, the CEOs and executives are being hunted down by a new generation of heroes; bounty killers. Often going up against private armies, these guys go after the powerful to give them what they have coming. Definitely a lefty fantasy.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Sci-Fi Action

Rating: R (for strong bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity) 

Laughing to the Bank

(L2Bank) Brian Hooks, Tabitha Brown, Laila Odom, Curtis Pickett. A struggling actor determines to get the funding to write, direct, star in and distribute his own film project. When the money vanishes, it’s just the start of a whole other thing to get the cash back.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Urban Comedy

Rating: NR

Renoir

(Goldwyn) Michel Bouquet, Christa Theret, Vincent Rottiers, Thomas Doret. The beloved painter near the end of his life takes on a new model who brings new energy and passion out in the old man. However his son Jean, recuperating from war wounds, falls in love with her creating tension between father and son. This was one of my favorites at this year’s Florida Film Festival; you can read my review here.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Biographical Drama

Rating: R (for sequences of art-related nudity and brief language)

Still Mine

(Goldwyn) James Cromwell, Genevieve Bujold, Rick Roberts, Julie Stewart. A man attempts to build a more suitable home for his ailing wife. Confronted by bureaucratic red tape and stop work orders, he defies the system in a race against time to complete the project before his wife’s illness gets more serious.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements and brief sensuality/partial nudity)

Tio Papi

(Active Fox) Joey Dedio, Kelly McGillis, Frankie Faison, Elizabeth Rodriguez . A Miami bachelor is quite happy with his life of hedonism and non-stop partying. All that comes to a crashing halt however when he becomes the legal guardian of his sister’s six rambunctious kids.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Family

Rating: PG (for thematic elements, mild rude humor and brief language)

The Ultimate Life

(High Top) Peter Fonda, Logan Bartholomew, Bill Cobbs, Lee Meriwether. A man, reeling from lawsuits from his greedy extended family, missing his girlfriend away on a mission to Haiti and trying to run the foundation started by his late grandfather, finds some of old granddad’s journals. As he reads them, he becomes fascinated by the old man’s rise from rags to riches. But can he find the strength and the faith to withstand all the challenges being lobbed his way?

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG (for a brief battle scene and mild thematic elements)

Renoir


Renoir's model Dedee has hopes and dreams as well as a beautiful body.

Renoir’s model Dedee has hopes and dreams as well as a beautiful body.

(2012) Biographical Drama (Goldwyn) Michel Bouquet, Vincent Rottiers, Christa Theret, Thomas Doret, Michele Gleizer, Romane Bohringer, Carlo Brandt, Helene Babu, Stuart Seide, Paul Spera, Solene Rigot, Cecile Rittweger. Directed by Gilles Bourdos   

 Florida Film Festival 2013

Great art transcends it’s medium. Whether a painting, a sculpture or a film, the greatest art inspires, excites, arouses and/or induces regardless of how it was created. One might say it is the art and not the artist – something that many artists forget.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Bouquet), arguably the greatest of the Impressionist painters, knows that all too well. It is 1915 and the Great War rages not far from his estate, Les Collettes in Cagnes-sur-Mer on the Cote d’Azur on the Mediterranean coast in southeastern France. His wife Aline has recently passed away and he himself is in profound pain due to rheumatoid arthritis (he would pass away himself four years later) which is why he has relocated to this bucolic town far from Paris.

Two of his three sons have been wounded in the war – the third, Coco (Doret) is too young to enlist and dwells on the farm, angry at the world. The great painter is surrounded by female servants, most of whom are former models of his. It is a saucy environment indeed, one which most men his age would have envied entirely.

Into this mix comes Andree Heuschling (Theret), a voluptuously beautiful model recommended to the great master by Henri Matisse. Brash, forthright and a bit self-centered, Andree (who is better known as the actress Catherine Hessling later in life but here is called Dedee) creates quite a stir. Renoir enters a fresh period of creativity and ends up quite taken with her.

So is another Renoir – son Jean (Rottiers) who has come to the family farm to recuperate from his wounds. Jean is a bit of a lost soul whose relationship with his father has a bit of distance to it – after all, it is hard to be the son of a living legend. While his father paints some compelling paintings of Dedee (both clothed and nude), Jean begins to fall for the lively girl. In him she awakens a love of a new art form – cinema. But as Jean’s wounds heal, the call to arms is still strong. Will the call of love be stronger yet?

Much of this was filmed on Renoir’s farm Les Collettes and it is easy to see through the beautiful images of Taiwanese cinematographer Mark Ping Bing Lee just how idyllic the property is and how much Philippe-Auguste Renoir must have loved it. The wind blows through the old trees, creating a soundtrack all its own. The elder Renoir loved beauty, particularly in the female form (“Flesh!” he exclaims at one point, “That’s all that matters!”). He was fascinated by the textures of the skin of young women and few artists captured it as well as he.

The venerable Bouquet does a marvelous job of capturing the spirit and the look of Renoir, from the long raggedy beard to the gnarled hands and painful movement of the old man. When he looks at Dedee and murmurs “Too soon! Too late” with genuine melancholy, one realizes in four words how much he is attracted to her – and how realistic he is about a relationship actually developing.

I like the Renoirs was quite taken with Dedee and we have Christa Theret to thank for that. Only a teen when she made the film (admittedly the real Dedee was five years younger than Theret), she conveys both the force of nature of the model’s personality as well as her uninhibited nature as she spends much of the film naked. I doubt many American actresses would have been able to pull that latter quality off.

The pace here is as languid as a summer day and that may put off some American audiences. One gets lulled by the ambience of the film and the passion of the performances. I have rarely been transported to a time and place as effectively as I was for Renoir. While this isn’t strictly speaking not 100% biographical (for example, he’s depicted having his brush tied to his hands by his assistants; in reality they merely placed the brush in his hand for him), it is nonetheless a welcome insight into the mind and life of one of the most influential painters of his time – one who continues to be a touchstone in the world of art.

REASONS TO GO: Gorgeously photographed. Interesting insights into the life of one of the greatest artists in history.

REASONS TO STAY: Can be sleep-inducing in places.

FAMILY VALUES:  Although there is quite a bit of nudity, it is all done in an artistic manner and while there is some bad language, there is only a few brief instances.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Bourdos used convicted art forger Guy Ribes to re-create the Renoir paintings onscreen during the painting sequences.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/14/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 82% positive reviews. Metacritic: 66/100; pretty decent reviews for this one.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Pollack

FINAL RATING: 7/10

NEXT: AKA Doc Pomus

The Art of the Steal


The Art of the Steal

The Barnes Collection.

(2009) Documentary (IFC/Sundance Selects) Dr. Albert C. Barnes, Richard H. Glaston, Walter Annenberg, Ed Rendell, Phillip D’Arcy, Rebecca Rimel, Raymond G. Perelman, Bernard C. Watson. Directed by Don Argott

Dr. Albert C. Barnes, a Philadelphia inventor, created a mild antiseptic called Argyrol (based on silver nitrate) in 1899. Used in the treatment of venereal diseases, the drug made him a millionaire by the time he was 35.

With a keen eye for art, he began to amass a collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Modernist art that up to that time the art establishment had turned its collective nose up at, particularly in Philadelphia where art was more or less background wallpaper for social climbing. When Barnes displayed his collection, the press was so vitriolic in its reviews of his beloved collection he never forgave them, particularly Walter Annenberg, publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In a huff, he established his collection in his home in Lower Merion Township (outside of Philadelphia) and arranged the paintings in ways so that they worked harmoniously with one another, adding an extra dimension to their genius. There the collection sat becoming more and more acclaimed as time went by and the painters he had collected – Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, Cezanne – became revered as masters. The Philadelphia Museum of Art – the one at the head of the stairs that Rocky Balboa runs up in Rocky – wanted the collection, but Barnes, having seen the art collections of friends wind up in the hands of a museum he considered a cultural house of prostitution, wrote up an ironclad will with the help of the best lawyers of his time.

He stipulated that the collection remain intact; no piece could be sold, moved or loaned. He created a foundation to oversee the collection, limiting public access to it and making it reserving it for the study by art students and those who wouldn’t ordinarily have access to a major collection of that kind. After he died in a 1951 car crash, his will kept predatory hands away from his collection.

After his death there began an epic struggle for control for the collection. On one side is the Barnes Foundation, administered by Lincoln College (an African-American college in the Philadelphia area) and the bluebloods and city fathers of Philadelphia aligned on the other. At stake is a nearly priceless collection that Philadelphia’s politicos saw as a potential tourist attraction that would generate interest worldwide.

The fact is that they did succeed at circumventing Barnes’ will and getting the collection moved from the crumbling Lower Merion facility to a new one in downtown Philadelphia, slated to open later this year. In many ways this is disturbing in that the will of someone who purchased artwork can be contravened by those who seek personal gain from its use, use they didn’t earn.

The movie has one point of view and one point of view only – that of the Friends of the Barnes Foundation, who opposed the move and fought it tooth and nail. There are no opposing arguments – although to be fair, none of the opposition agreed to be interviewed for the film – which begs the questions about expanding access of a world-class collection for the world to see, as well as maintaining the facilities that would keep the artwork in the best shape possible for years to come. There is evidence that the Lower Merion facility was in danger of falling into sufficient disrepair that the artworks it housed could be damaged and potentially lost forever. There is also the argument that the art in the Barnes collection deserves to be seen by a wider audience.

The fact is that the artwork was bought and paid for by an individual who made it very clear what his wishes for the disposition of that artwork were. Whether or not that his wishes were in the best wishes of the artwork or of the general public may well be beside the point; whether a city has the right to take eminent domain over a cultural treasure in obviation of the wishes of those with legal control of that treasure. It is a point not explored by the film but then again, perhaps it wasn’t even a question for the filmmaker.

WHY RENT THIS: A very concise, well presented documentary about an outrageous contravening of the will of a Philadelphia art collector.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: There is literally no other viewpoint but the one of the Friends of the Barnes Collection; in some ways it’s more like propaganda.

FAMILY VALUES: There are a few bad words but not many.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The Barnes Collection includes over 9,000 pieces of art conservatively valued at $25 billion and includes 181 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 60 Matisses, 44 Picassos and 14 Modiglianis.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $544,890 on an unreported production budget; the film in all likelihood made money.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: Day 1 of Cinema365: From the Heart