22 December 2017.
Dear cinephiles, here’s wishing you a warm and toasty Christmas and a healthy and peaceful 2018. With many good films, of course! There are too many interesting ones coming out this week, so the reviews will be mini ones. Just to guide you to the right film… Enjoy them through the holidays. Don’t forget – PADDINGTON 2 and COCO are family delights – Go!
There are simple films that go straight to the heart – this is one of them. Lucky, played by veteran character-actor Harry Dean Stanton, is a sort of philosopher living in a small desert town somewhere in the American West.
He is 90 years old and likes living alone. We follow his daily life, banalities that are never dull – a doctor’s visit, his ritual smoke before exercises, breakfast in the diner, meeting his buddies in the local bar, each of them characters you’d want to know.
It’s spiritual, it’s amusing, it’s tender and so wise. Actor/first-time director John Carroll Lynch has created a small gem of a yarn about a long life well lived.
TOUT LÀ-HAUT *** (vo French)
Here’s an invigorating, brilliantly shot film about the passion for snowboarding and mountain climbing.
Set around Chamonix and Nepal, and starring Kev Adams and Vincent Elbaz, you feel the thrill, camaraderie and urgency of such extreme sports. The story is a tribute to the dare-devil mountaineer, Marco Siffredi, who died trying to snowboard down Mount Everest.
PROMESSE DE L’AUBE *** (vo French)
The life of the famous, multi-awarded writer Romain Gary, whose mother was his constant rock and strongest ally, is spanned from his childhood in Poland to his fame in Paris in this biopic by Eric Barbier.
Pierre Niney (“Yves Saint Laurent”, “Frantz”) and Charlotte Gainsbourg as his mother are excellent in bringing to life the tumultuous journey of an exceptional character.
Remember the delightful Jumanji from 20 years ago starring Robin Williams? Well, this one does it honor by not being a remake but a continuation of the exciting game that was its premise, now set in a wild jungle.
A fun cast including “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black and comedian Kevin Hart make it a laugh-a-minute ride into a make-believe world that has the original teenage characters turned into bodies other than their own, which makes for hilarious situations. Here’s good-feel entertainment that is also a broad lesson in accepting and appreciating who you are.
Julia Roberts is very moving as the mother of a deformed child whose first endeavor in a public school is a trying challenge. This obvious tear-jerker becomes a tribute to all families with handicapped children, rising above its sentimentality with convincing performances.
A MAN OF INTEGRITY **1/2 (vo Farsi)
Winner of the Certain Regard section in Cannes, this Iranian film by Mohammad Rasoulof is a damning study of the grip of corruption in that country. Reza and his wife have a goldfish farm in a small town. Its success becomes the target of a Mafia-like group in the area, making Reza increasingly desperate. The depressing tone of the story is relentless as with most of Rasoulof’s previous works.
THE FLORIDA PROJECT **1/2
A cheap motel in the outskirts of Disneyworld. A motley crew of lowlifes living there, including precocious 6 year-old Moonee and her sometime-prostitute mother.
Willem Dafoe plays the kindly motel manager. It all feels terribly real, depressing and it’s shocking to see how kids are brought up in such an environment. These might be characters that brought Trump to power. There’s been a great deal of positive vibe about this film – “best film of the year”, etc, etc. – I can’t imagine why.
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS **
Actor Kenneth Branagh is also usually a fine, versatile director – “Hamlet”, “Cinderella”, “Thor”. Unfortunately his remake of the classic Agatha Christie whodunnit is somewhat overwrought. You feel the big star cast (Judy Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, etc) is for effect rather than convincing, and the story and special effects seem exaggerated and hollow. Pity.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.