7/20/2018

Film Movement Movie Review: The Third Murder (2017)


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Originally an aspiring novelist who skipped class in college to instead go to the movies, so far acclaimed Japanese writer/director Hirokazu Kore-eda's filmography has largely consisted of intimate family and relationship dramas that could best be described as novels on film.

Drawing more upon his love of cinema than fiction, Kore-eda's Film Noir infused legal title The Third Murder marks a bold and (regrettably) largely unsuccessful departure from the fly-on-the-wall docudramas that have become synonymous with his name.


While collaborating with lawyers and legal advisers on his masterful Cannes Film Festival award-winning drama Like Father, Like Son, Kore-eda was struck by the Catch 22 revelation that – in spite of our romantic notions about the law – in the end, the court is there to pass judgment and not determine the truth.

An existential take on our flawed justice system as well as American courtroom dramas and crime pictures of the 1950s in particular, The Third Murder is as fascinating as it is infuriating. Relying on a classic genre hook to grab our attention, Kore-eda introduces us to a cool-headed lawyer who comes to suspect that, despite confessing to murder, his client just might be innocent.


Referencing the events of an entirely different murder case involving the exact same man set thirty years earlier while we're still trying to get our bearings in the present, Murder needlessly confuses viewers to the point that a friend and I actually had to stop the movie twice to try and process just what exactly was going on before we'd reached the end of the first act.

Hoping to supply the film with the genre requisite number of endless twists, each time the lawyer played by Masaharu Fukuyama (who serves as the viewer's surrogate) thinks they've begun to learn the truth about what really happened on the night of the crime, his client (Kôji Yakusho) backtracks and changes his story an infinite number of times.


Growing increasingly ridiculous as it continues, rather than develop his purported Hitchcockian “wrong man” narrative into a successful dramatic thriller that also proves his thesis about the double-edged sword that is the law, Kore-eda appears to lose interest, ultimately throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the screen to see what sticks.

And in the process, the film wastes what could've been a very effective dramatic conflict concerning the lawyer's relationship with his father (Isao Hashizume), who coincidentally served as the judge on his client's case thirty years earlier.

Of course logically, this alone would probably have forced the lawyer off the case for the sake of appearances (if not outright ethics concerns), it's easy to overlook the contrivance since it leads to some powerful moments of debate between the two, which in any other Kore-eda drama would have become the film's central conflict. Recognizing that, The Third Murder switches gears yet again as the writer/director adds a half-baked mystical component to the storyline.


While obviously a magical realist courtroom drama is one way to set his film apart from the dime a dozen legal works which play out on pages and screens everyday, Kore-eda flirts with but never fully commits to it on the level of Kieslowski's Three Colors Trilogy, which invited viewers to speculate whether characters had free-will or if everything they did was pre-determined by a higher “judge.”

Ponderous, pretentious, and overly long (by at least twenty minutes), The Third Murder raises far more questions than it offers answers, which could have gone a long way towards proving his point about the shortcomings of a system that decides the rest of a person's life or death in the blink of an eye, had so much of the film not been fashioned like a whodunnit.


Helping keep us interested beyond our sheer narrative curiosity, Murder's strongest selling points lie in its first rate Noir components in the form of Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi’s hauntingly minimalist score and Mikiya Minamoto's mesmerizing cinematography.

Visually inspired by Michael Curtiz's Mildred Pierce and filmed in CinemaScope, Minamoto's inventive juxtaposition of shadow and light yields some absolutely stunning close-ups and richly symbolic shots.


With faces overlapping during key points to link our characters and their plights together, the stellar combination of Einaudi’s score with Minamoto's unique visuals create a fascinating subtext which bolsters Kore-eda's otherwise odd blend of existential philosophy, magical realism, Film Noir, and legal drama.

But with so much going on, rather than enrich the work, most of the the film's individual layers and subplots are spread so thin that all they do is call attention to themselves. A meandering tour of a lot of otherwise great ideas, The Third Murder makes you wish for the first time in Kore-eda's career that instead of a mishmash literary film, he'd written a film-like novel instead.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

7/17/2018

Blu-ray Review: Lean on Pete (2017)


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No matter how many adults tell him that "it's going to be okay," by age fifteen, Charley (played by Charlie Plummer) has been through enough to know that words alone can't make it so.

Having found himself lost in the cracks of the American dream, over the course of a life-changing summer, Charley ventures out on his own. Trusting his own shoe leather as well as the friends he meets along the way (at least for a little while), Charley finds a surprising kindred spirit in Pete.

While on the surface the only thing the two seem to have in common is that they love to run, after the old racing quarter horse disappoints his owner Del (Steve Buscemi) one too many times and Charley is asked to load Pete up for sale, he knows that nothing about this is going to be okay.


Searching for someone to call family more than just a place to call home, Charley finds that and more in Pete as they hightail it across the Pacific northwest in writer/director Andrew Haigh's soulful adaptation of Willy Vlautin's eponymous young adult novel.

As gritty and heart-wrenching and as it is moving and beautiful (particularly in the lush magic hour and twilight cinematography by A Hijacking DP Magnus Nordenhof Jønck), in the span of its two hour running time, Lean on Pete sneaks up on viewers to become one of the most powerful films of 2018.


An R-rated coming-of-age saga woven into the narrative of an American road movie, Lean on Pete blends the influences of its author and filmmaker together just as seamlessly, paying tribute to everything from Steinbeck's Travels With Charley In Search of America to Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas.

Featuring fine supporting work by Buscemi, Chloë Sevigny, and Travis Fimmel among others (including Steve Zahn in a startlingly against type role), overall it's Charlie Plummer's film from start to finish and his masterful performance gives Pete the wings needed to make Haigh's poetic road movie soar.


Bound to make viewers want to reach into the screen to help our polite, determined, and increasingly heart-breakingly street smart lead get where he's going safely, although we know he'd never believe us, we wish there was some way we could not only tell but ensure that everything in his life (and the lives of those just like him) will be okay.

Moving slowly to avoid taking any shortcuts, despite its YA premise, Lean on Pete is a far cry from most coming-of-age films where down-on-their-luck teens befriend a horse over the course of an unforgettable summer. Going out of its way to avoid mainstream friendly characters to instead focus on outsiders, with Charley and Pete as our guides, we cross paths with everyone from Mexican immigrants to soldiers recently returned from war.

A humanistic endeavor that touches but doesn't dwell too long on issues ranging from homelessness to addiction, even when things are the opposite of okay – through something as simple as a shared conversation or meal – through Charley and Pete, Haigh reminds us that when we look out for one another, there's always room for hope.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Blu-ray Review: Double Lover (2017)


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You could call Double Lover a double of a double. Penned by Joyce Carol Oates under a second name of Rosamund Smith, François Ozon's kinky psychosexual thriller is the second adaptation of her 1988 novel Lives of the Twins.

And while the source material is used merely as a jumping off point, Ozon's film is a product of extensive homage to the point that viewers just might begin seeing double.


Revolving around Chloe, a fragile twenty-five year old woman (played by Marine Vacth) who fears that her ex-psychiatrist turned lover Paul (Jérémie Renier) is not the man he seems, the film owes a great deal to David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers, the oeuvre and aesthetics of Pedro Almodovar (Talk to Her comes to mind), and the granddaddy of cinematic voyeurism, Alfred Hitchcock (by way of Rebecca, Vertigo, and Marnie).

After first discovering a passport belonging to Paul that's registered to him under a different name and later seeing a man who could easily be his double with another woman, Eva decides to find out just what exactly is going on at the risk of her relationship as well as her sanity.


Filled with erotic symbolism and Freudian subtext, Lover opens with an iris shot it revisits moments later, moving from an extreme gynecological close-up to the iris of our heroine's eye in one startling (and frankly cringe-worthy) cut.

Continuing its iris motif shortly thereafter as we encounter the first of many long spiral staircases that we'll see over the course of Lover, Ozon's new cinematographer Manuel Dacosse and his frequent editor Laure Gardette have a blast infusing not only the circular shape but the idea of doubles throughout.

Weaving in dual split-screen imagery of Chloe from different angles as she makes a confession in therapy early on as well as another cut which shows our lead multiplied roughly a half a dozen times as she approaches a mirror that slowly decreases back into a single shot, Lover does intriguing things with perspective and foreshadowing that keeps the viewer on their toes.


Losing a great deal of its momentum and purported mystery at the end of its first act once it makes its first big reveal, as Chloe's journey to discover more about her lover predictably evolves into a journey of sexual discovery, Ozon's work grows increasingly ridiculous.

And similar to the way that Ozon miscalculated the effect the speculum closeup would have on half of the audience that visits the gynecologist, he doesn't seem to understand that some of its most taboo scenes beg to be played with an entirely different tone (if kept at all), which only becomes more apparent as Double becomes a sort of sexual roller coaster... minus the fun.


Not trusting the character of Choe enough to let the viewer see things from the very eye he'd zoomed into at the start of the film, Ozon and his cowriter Philippe Piazzo convey way too much through expositional dialogue and likewise, undercut what could've been a vastly more effective moment of horror through voyeurism.

Forcing the viewer to watch something happen to our lead from halfway across the room in a penultimate sequence that would've worked so much better if we'd been able to experience it from her own perspective, Lover keeps everyone at an arm's length and leaves us cold.


Despite some technically dazzling moments that recalled David Fincher's The Game, which might've worked better in an altogether different Hitchcockian work, the film marks a rare disappointment from one of France's most daring contemporary masters.

Trying to distract us with Freudian imagery of cats and circles instead of ensuring the thriller's plotline would be dazzling enough to tie us in knots, Double Lover reminds viewers that although Oates is hard to adapt, this time around, Ozon might've been better off sticking to the book.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Blu-ray Review: Lionheart (1990)


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You don't put Van Damme in a sweat box!

Forced to desert the French Foreign Legion after his sadistic superiors refuse to give him time off when his brother is nearly burned alive, paratrooper Lyon Gaultier (Jean-Claude Van Damme) escapes from his North African outpost and makes his way to the United States.


In the first of a series of contrivances, after stumbling upon a street fight in New York City, Lyon puts his kickboxing skills to good use in order to net a few quick bucks for a phone call. Recognizing his potential, Joshua (Harrison Page), a former fighter turned talent scout introduces Lyon to his boss Cynthia (Deborah Rennard), who runs an underground fight circuit for her wealthy patrons with matches across the country.

Dubbed Lionheart by Cynthia, although he’d only intended street fighting to be a one time thing, once he finally tracks down his brother’s family (including his adorable niece Nicole, played by Ashley Johnson), Lyon realizes that the best way he can help out is to keep moving up through the ranks in order to pay off all the debts and medical bills left in their wake.


Though relatively light on plot, the little that’s there provides more than enough fuel to not only drive the film forward but – as an essential crossover picture made to help propel the action hero into more mainstream fare – also give Van Damme the opportunity to showcase his softer, dramatic side.

Co-written by director Sheldon Lettich and the star (who revealed in a behind-the-scenes featurette how much he could relate to the arc of the fictional tale on a personal level), while it's undeniably cheesy at times – particularly during the film's flimsy first act which finds Lyon ready to kick ass Rambo style at the drop of a hat – Lionheart gets better as it continues.

Essentially evolving into a live action version of the era's popular video game "Pit Fighter," Lionheart lets Van Damme battle a wide range of opponents in different settings from a nearly empty underground pool to the center of a ring made up of cars shining the men on with their headlights.


Featuring some terrific fight choreography and stunts, Lionheart looks better than ever in this features loaded, retro styled MVD Rewind Collection Blu-ray/DVD double disc set.

While a fight picture is a fight picture, to their credit, Letitch and Van Damme are able to break up the monotony with some fairly decent drama. Still, falling prey to the charismatic lead’s charms and the actor's ego, the film has a strange undercurrent of Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer era homoeroticism mixed with overt come-ons.

Similar to the way that the camera exposes his rear in what would later become a signature (ahem) asset of his filmography, amusingly everyone from Cynthia to a fellow fighter and beyond hits on Lyon and treats him like a sex object, albeit a willing one given his collaborative role.

While needless to say it’s a bit all over the place, Lionheart nonetheless remains one of Van Damme’s strongest early works wherein (much like Lyon), he managed to move up in the ranks, scoring not only a twenty-four million dollar box office return but even more propositions from Hollywood.



Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

DVD Review: Flower (2017)


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Centering your film on a whip smart seventeen-year-old girl with a gift for rapid fire one-liners who uses her Deep Throatish oral fixation to blackmail the men in her town is a daring proposition indeed… and doubly so when it’s written and directed solely by men.

Of course, gender alone shouldn't automatically preclude men from telling the stories of young women as some of cinema’s best female monologues and roles have been penned by men.


Still, having your underage lead obsessively draw phalluses and proposition her troubled future stepbrother within an hour of meeting him while comparing her oral sex skills to that of The Horse Whisperer isn't exactly the stuff of John Hughes, even if it does fit in with the confrontational comedic brand of executive producers Jody Hill and Danny McBride, whose work is filled with problematic female characters.

And while all of this might've been okay had we even begun to scratch the surface of the character, aside from obvious daddy issues (including a scene where she tries to seduce and entrap a potential pedophile she'd dubbed a “hot old guy” while wearing a shirt emblazoned with the word “Daddy”) and a few throwaway lines referencing a past shrink, we’re mostly left scratching our heads.


Needless to say, on paper, everything about Flower shouldn't work and onscreen, it nearly doesn't, save for the megawatt performance by Zoey Deutch as the wildly uninhibited Erica. A star on the rise who's been the best thing in a number of projects including this year's Netflix uneven original movie Set It Up, in Flower, Deutch fills the screen with so much luminous energy that she probably saved the half million dollar indie a fortune in lighting costs.

Originally penned by young adult novelist Alex McAulay, Flower was named one on the Black List's best unproduced screenplays back in 2012. Reconfigured over time and co-written by its director Max Winkler as well as Ingrid Goes West co-writer/director Matt Spicer, while undeniably creative, this incarnation of Flower feels like what happens when three different puzzles wind up in the same box.

Despite some bright spots in the performances of not only Deutch but the film's entire supporting cast including Step Brothers costars Kathryn Hahn and Adam Scott (who don't share a single scene here), the pieces just don't fit.


Trading in her after school hobby of sexual blackmail to instead go after a potential predator at night, the film, much like Erica's noble yet misguided quest changes mightily from one scene to the next. Never sure of its approach, Flower has trouble adjusting to its pendulum swings in logic and tone.

While it's an unconventional choice to say the least, the decision to mix Erica's sexual coming-of-age (complete with a wide range of legally and socially unacceptable partners) with busting a sex offender offered Flower's writers ample opportunity to explore Erica's issues in a very real way... at least for a scene or two.


Regrettably more interested in fantasy than reality, as the film continues, Winkler and company attempt a shortcut and drop the ball. Muddying things up during a key sequence where both issues overlap, Flower takes on a sleazily voyeuristic vibe – temporarily turning Erica into an object instead of a three dimensional person. Though this is short-lived, the implausible wish fulfillment of Flower's third act misses the opportunity to set things right.

Bursting with ideas, at ninety minutes, Flower is chaotic and overstuffed. Less hit than miss, just like most flowers need only sunlight and water to thrive, Flower is proof that when you're dealing with serious issues and someone as talented as Deutch, Winkler should've taken a cue from nature, cut out all the excess and used less in order to say so much more.

Of course, a woman's point-of-view couldn't hurt.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

7/05/2018

Movie Review: Under the Tree (2017)


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Staging his dramatic thriller like a “a war film where home is the battlefield,”* over the eerie opening credits of director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson's Under the Tree, men line up at a gun range to fire a metaphorical shot across the bow, which translates to a shot across the fence as soon as the action begins.

With both trees and sunlight at a premium in Iceland, at the start of the summer holiday, a feud between two next door neighbors over a beautiful old tree that blocks the sunlight from one's yard escalates from an obvious climate change allegory into a morality tale of epic proportions.


Setting a majority of its action in the homes and yards of its suburban characters, Sigurðsson and his co-writer Huldar Breiðfjörð make some terrific points about our increasingly individualized society. Tree reminds viewers of the fact that although we might exchange pleasantries with one another and/or hear rumors, we have very little clue what's really going on in the lives of the people with whom we share a property line at any given time.

Drastically shifting in tone from a darkly funny opening fight between a married couple to an increasingly dramatic standoff between two households, as it moves into thriller territory, we begin to realize that, more than anyone, Tree's women have been the ones to set up the dominoes and – by way of their interaction with men and each other – start to make them fall.


Yet while this decision is justified when limited to the animosity between the two neighbor women whose actions and outrage propel the men to predictably violent means, when the same treatment of female cause and negative male effect spreads to other well-intentioned women in the movie, it feels like a biblical – turned borderline misogynistic – twist.

Packing a whole lot into its eighty-nine minute running time (including a fascinating through line about how three very different family members cope very differently with grief), although it works well as an overall morality tale, the film's characters possess enough complexity that the picture could've easily been twice as long.


Led by comedians and comedy actors, Under the Tree is grounded by its ensemble cast. Featuring a superlative goosebump inducing score by Daníel Bjarnason that helped modulate the film's early jumps back and forth in character and tone as well as the gradually darkening color palette from talented cinematographer Monika Lenczewska, it's a technically impressive work that wears its inspirations from Lynch and Haneke to Cianfrance and Ramsay proudly throughout.

Above average in spite of its narrative flaws, the opposite of a summer popcorn picture, Under the Tree is made for those who prefer films with shade.


*As quoted in the Magnolia Pictures press notes.

Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

7/03/2018

Film Movement DVD Review: In Syria (2017) & Le Pain (2001)


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“Syrians seeking refuge in Europe right now have no choice but to abandon their homes and country. They all come from places for which we lack images,” In Syria director Philippe Van Leeuw explained in an interview, sharing that, with the Berlin Film Festival Audience Award Winner, he hoped to “shine a light on the dignity of civilian populations.”

Inspired by a real story a friend told him in 2012 about her father being trapped inside his apartment in Aleppo for three weeks as his neighborhood suddenly turned into a war zone, in the film, Van Leeuw ensures we feel the danger even before we see a single image by filling the soundtrack with explosions and gunfire that play over Syria's dark opening credits.


Set over the course of twenty-four frantic hours, in this neorealist docudrama, Van Leeuw pays homage to the man whose experience sparked the idea for the picture with bookended shots of a paternal character trapped inside his daughter-in-law's Damascus apartment getting up every morning for his ritual smoke.

Turning her one-family apartment into a barricaded shelter, with her husband away, Oum Yazan (Hiam Abbass) vows to protect her three children, neighbors, family, and friends at all costs.


Pinned down by snipers and jeopardized by bandits going from floor to floor, after Oum's house cleaner sees one of their temporary residents get shot at the start of the day, it's the first bad omen of more misfortune to come. With each resident knowing that if they get caught, they could risk everyone else, the group strives to get through their most dangerous day yet, hoping for either a chance to escape or ever illusive help to come.

Anchored by the always excellent Abbass (currently making her American small screen debut on HBO's smash hit Succession) and The Insult's Diamand Bou Abboud, Van Leeuw rounds out his cast with actual Syrian refugees.


Timelier than ever given not only the ongoing war and refugee crisis but especially because it coincides by the Trump administration's barbaric treatment of immigrants, without wasting a single frame, In Syria remains heart-stoppingly intense for its entire eighty-six minute running time.

Careful not to venture into exploitative territory during one especially harrowing scene, although Van Leeuw remains entirely focused on faces and actions rather than fill the entire frame with assault, the horrific extended sequence is sure to stay with viewers long after the film is over.

Under-reported in the states, Van Leeuw's powerful docudrama gives viewers a stark look at life during hellish wartime, all the while applauding the courage of everyday citizens to do whatever it takes to fight back and stay strong.


Rounding out the disc with Le Pain, a well-made roughly twenty minute short directed by and starring Hiam Abbass, while this pairing of feature and short from Film Movement is the opposite of uplifting, together they paint a wonderful portrait of the underappreciated strength of mothers who routinely put the needs of everyone else – especially children and men – before their own.

Centering on a tragedy that befalls a family after they move to the French countryside, as the first of four short films made by the star, Le Pain is a consummate work from 2001.

Intriguing and character driven, Le Pain, could very well have served as the first act of a feature in its own right that I would loved to have seen. And while it isn't likely to be picked up again now seventeen years later, I certainly hope its reemergence on this new Film Movement DVD will give Abbass more opportunities to tell the stories she wants on both sides of the lens.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Blu-ray Review: The Escape of Prisoner 614 (2018)


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Nice and polite if not exactly bright, in writer/director Zach Golden's dry 1960s set comedy The Escape of Prisoner 614, the two deputies of the Shandaken Sheriff's Department (played by Martin Starr and Jake McDorman) spend their days acting out fake surrenders in the woods and eating for free in the local diner.

After they're fired by their intimidating superior (Ron Perlman) for their total lack of arrests and discover that life without a badge means they actually have to pay for their meals, the two vow to impress the sheriff enough to get their old jobs back by tracking down a recent prison escapee (George Sample III).


A stellar short film masquerading as a disappointing feature-length endeavor, while the idiotic Three Stooges by way of O Brother, Where Art Thou? style escapades of Prisoner's main characters prove amusing enough for the film's first act, Golden's tonally awkward work starts to run out of ideas before we've even reached the halfway point.

But just when you've begun to write the film off (like the friend I was watching it with who bowed out during its meandering second act), Prisoner finds a way to rebound thanks to a thrillingly original O. Henryesque conclusion.


Undeniably talented as a writer, although Golden still needs to work on pacing and tone, his inventive banter is bolstered by Prisoner's terrific cast of character actors.

Never once giving into the ridiculousness of the goings-on by hamming it up for the camera, the crackerjack chemistry of scene-stealers Starr and McDorman helps sell the nonsense right from the start. Unfortunately for Prisoner however, acting can only go so far and Golden's work is in need of both a stronger plot and character arc to successfully carry the film from start to finish.

And while it's hard to recommend as a mainstream comedy overall, film students interested in writing and editing (and particularly those with an interest in short filmmaking) might want to give Prisoner a look to weigh its pros, cons, as well as evaluate what the feature-length film got right, and what – as a short – it didn't need to get wrong.



Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.