7/26/2018

Blu-ray Review: A Ciambra (2017)


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A kinetic slice of neorealistic life, although A Ciambra tells a fully contained coming-of-age story, the sophomore effort from Jonas Carpignano was originally made to serve as a companion piece to his award-winning debut Mediterranea. Fortunately, however, the Cannes Film Festival Director's Fortnight award-winner stands exceptionally tall on its own.

Set in Southern Italy's Gioia Tauro, the film chronicles the life and family of fourteen year old Pio Amato, who stars as a thinly disguised version of himself along with the rest of the cast of unprofessional actors (most of whom are Amato's relatives).


The grandson of a Romani immigrant who lives with his family in extreme poverty stealing electricity from and working for the rich Italians in the surrounding area, as a petty criminal who longs to be taken seriously, Pio can't wait to grow up.

When his father and brother get arrested during a robbery, Pio vows to use the opportunity to become the man of the house and prove them all wrong. Working alongside Ayiva (Koudous Seihon), an older African immigrant who is saving up money to send to his sister and daughter back home, Pio gets to work stealing from tourists.


Boldly climbing aboard trains only to leave moments later with a stranger's luggage, the sight of people freely leaving an area that the young illiterate boy most likely never will is a haunting one indeed and part of A Ciambra's power is in just how long it stays with you after it ends.

A complex portrait of a multicultural southern Italy where racism, bias, and socioeconomic inequality is at an all time high, although Gioia Taura feels like it's a million miles away at the start of the film, by the end, you realize that the issues affecting the residents there (ranging from prejudice to the disparity of rich vs. poor) are the same ones facing us everywhere, only magnified.


Whether Pio's on a train going nowhere or using the guise of a motorbike ride to hug a friend goodbye in a heartbreaking third act twist, as Italy's official Oscar submission for the Best Foreign Film of 2018, Carpignano's moving chronicle of the determined youth's hard-fought journey from boy to man follows in the footsteps of classic Italian and modern global works of Neorealism.

And although Bicycle Thieves and City of God immediately come to mind, the film also owes a thematic debt to other international coming-of-age classics such as Truffaut's The 400 Blows, which A Ciambra appears to reference in a few select shots.


While producer Martin Scorsese offered notes on the film's cut, aside from a minimal nod to Magical Realism while paying tribute to Grandfather Amato's past wandering the land, Carpignano treats Gioia Taura and its people with a near journalistic integrity in A Ciambra, unwilling to alter much of what's in front of his eyes in his attempt to bridge viewer and subject.

Adamant in his belief that, as he says in the press notes, "exposure to 'foreign elements,' whether they be people, food, or music is the only way to dissolve the artificial boundaries between us," in this microcosm of life in Southern Italy which might as well be life everywhere, Carpignano uses film to do just that.


Weaving in a plethora of bonus material from a short film and featurette to lengthy documentaries on the ninety-one day production to bring you the whole story, although it's missing Mediterranea, the gorgeous Blu-ray transfer from MPI and Sundance Selects delivers viewers to Gioia Taura Pio style - with no train ticket required.

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: Traffik (2018)

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With her beaming smile and laid back style, Paula Patton has brightened up countless films over the years as a reliable ensemble player. Whether wielding her charm like a weapon in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, bringing out her inner diva in Just Wright, or helping to ensure that Swing Vote didn't take itself too seriously by marrying relationship and political comedy, Patton's been long overdue for not only a lead role but a good one. Needless to say, it's easy to see why she's turned to producing to start generating her own material.

Moving into more serious territory in her second feature film as a double hyphenate following Bille Woodruff's 2016 romantic comedy The Perfect Match, producer and star Patton stars as Brea in writer/director Deon Taylor's sex-trafficking thriller, Traffik.


A journalist at a personal and professional crossroads, while on a romantic weekend getaway with her boyfriend John (Omar Epps), Brea is literally handed the investigative story of a lifetime after a young woman drops her captor's satellite phone in her bag.

Ringing out in the night just as the movie had started to stall following the arrival of the couple's annoying friends (played by Laz Alonso and Roselyn Sanchez), rather than use this terrific hook and Hitchcockian MacGuffin in one to help get the film back on track, Traffik puts it in neutral, opting instead to take the easy way out.


Surrounded by the same motorcycle gang that Brea and John had already had a run in with earlier in the movie, in stark contrast to the film's tagline of “Refuse To Be A Victim,” the film quickly loses its senses, ultimately turning its bland characters into veritable horror movie prey for the next two acts as they try to run, hide, fight, and get help.

Using her looks first as visual eye candy and then later as the subject of a predatory male gaze, although Patton tries her best to transcend yet another one-dimensional role, Taylor gives in far too quickly. By placing her character in increasing levels of jeopardy to try and hold the audience's interest for more than a single scene, Taylor seemingly forgets the crusading journalist he’d introduced us to in act one.

An exploitative anti-exploitation picture complete with shocking real-world statistics as well as the vague claim that it was inspired by true events, in spite of its best intentions, Traffik never rises above the combination of Lifetime Original Movie and (thankfully) gore free '80s B-movie horror.


Like a gun we see in the first act that's bound to go off later on, although the classic dream car that Mike built for Brea helps them escape the relentless bikers early on, we can't help but wonder how much better Traffik could've been if it had circled back to the car and turned into a Breakdown, Duel, or even Kidnap style suspenseful road movie.

Similarly, had Patton and Taylor really wanted to create a gritty thriller about the under-reported world of sex-trafficking in the United States (and abroad), they could've followed through on the classic horror movie trope that finds an anonymous woman abducted at the start of the film.

Instead of passing off the phone to strangers, Traffik might have been more genuine had the story been told from the point-of-view of the victim as she tried to get away from her captors or had Patton been able to fight along with her side by side.


Well shot by a man who knows how to use night scenes to his advantage in the form of L.A. Confidential and Heat cinematographer Dante Spinotti, the Italian cameraman tries his best to add some style to the fledgling material and ratchets up the intensity to the nth degree during a key scene co-starring a fierce Missi Pyle.

And while of course you can't review what might have been, because Taylor's movie starts us down so many different paths before ditching them all, it's easy to see the wide variety of stories that could've been told had Traffik ditched the short stops and changed its route in order to truly go the distance with any one of them.

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.

Film Movement DVD Review: Hotel Salvation (2016)


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Struck by the sound of his late wife calling to him in a powerful recurring dream, one night over dinner, seventy-seven year old Daya (Lalit Behl) tells his family that he's sure of two things. Not only does he know that it's his time to die, he says in a voice calm enough to startle his dubious loved ones, but he's also sure precisely where it is that he wants to lay his head at the end.

Granting his final wish to bring him to India’s holy city of Varnasi, located on the banks of the Ganges, Daya’s hardworking and perpetually stressed son, Rajiv (played by Life of Pi actor Adil Hussain) takes time off from selling life insurance to humor his father.


Not ready to believe him and not ready to let him go, the two men set off on a journey to stay at Hotel Salvation, one of the many hotels on Ganges, which gives its dying tenants two weeks to get their affairs in order, say their goodbyes, and move on one way or another.

Bickering back and forth from the moment they leave home about everything from Rajiv wanting to drive fast and Daya wanting to go slow to the past hurts between parents and children, although it deals frankly with the deadly serious topic of death, Shubhashish Bhutiani’s universally relatable directorial debut is filled with a zest for life.


Reminiscent of Little Miss Sunshine, Tokyo Story, and Wild Strawberries, in this vibrant and humanistic award-winner, Bhutiani finds a great deal of unexpected humor in the film's complex father/son relationship and the role that the past plays in the present with three generations of diverse relatives.

Alternating between emotional highs and lows, admittedly this is a difficult film to recommend to viewers who are either caring for or who have recently lost their own parent as it sneaks up on you nearly as quickly as it makes you laugh (or rather smile in amused recognition).


Painting an end of life portrait with both sensitivity and respect while also celebrating the legacy of life left behind in a person's loved ones, Bhutiani makes an auspicious debut with Hotel Salvation, which is nicely paired by director Frédéric Recrosio’s thematically similar, Wes Anderson stylized supporting short Que La Nuit Soit Douce on the new DVD from Film Movement.


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: Finding Your Feet (2017)


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Like a new but familiar song you hear on the radio that you're somehow able to sing along to by the time you've reached the second chorus, Wimbledon director Richard Loncraine's Finding Your Feet is the latest in a long line of life affirming ensemble dramedies that British filmmakers have made with assembly line efficiency since the mid 1990s.

As delightfully warm as it is wistfully bittersweet, as the film begins, Sandra (played by Imelda Staunton) discovers her husband of thirty-five years has been cheating on her with one of her closest friends. Leaving her posh life of tennis tournaments, OBE ceremonies, and garden parties behind, Sandra shows up at the doorstep of her estranged, free-spirited sister Bif (scene stealer Celia Imrie), whom she hasn’t seen in ten years.


An active outgoing senior with a wide circle of friends, although she indulges her spoiled sister at first, Bif interrupts Sandra’s pity-party after she sees how much she’s changed. Bringing her to her weekly dance class, Bif tries to shake up Sandra’s snobbish attitude as well as her routine and remind her uptight sister – who used to be a talented dancer in her youth before giving it all up to put her husband first – just how much fun life can be if she moves to her own beat.

Unwilling to put some of its strongest character actors out to pasture once they reach a certain age like they do in Hollywood, Finding Your Feet benefits from the chemistry of its veteran performers (including those who've worked together in other projects over the years), particularly as the script from producers Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft evolves from a journey of self-discovery into romantic comedy.


Finally sharing scenes with Imelda Staunton in this, their sixth filmic pairing, Timothy Spall gives a relatable, moving, and understated performance as one of Bif’s closest friends and classmates, Charlie.

Proof that you can’t always rely on first impressions, although Charlie and Sandra get off on the wrong foot, as the film continues and the viewer learns more about Bif’s loyal friend, we discover along with the characters both how much they have in common and just how well the two complement one another both on and off the dance floor.


While unfortunately the addition of a love story as well as a predictable, dramatic third act character reveal causes the relationship between the sisters to get shortchanged, Imrie and Staunton still make the most of each scene they share.

Using both its talented cast and fun choreography to elevate the material beyond some of the formulaic third act genre requirements which predictably throw a wrench in the proceedings, the film finds its footing nicely in the hands of Loncraine who juggles all of the changes in setting and tone with ease.

An earnest and heartfelt character driven charmer, like a new but familiar song you can’t wait to sing with, dance to, and share with others, Finding Your Feet is sure to catch on.


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: Love After Love (2017)


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A flawed system of facial translation, on the wall of every hospital hangs a rudimentary pain scale chart of 1-10 or smile to frown.

Not taking into consideration a person's culture, gender, or background, while on the surface it might appear to do the job, what the emoji system fails to understand is not only are people being seen in hospitals experiencing some of the worst days of their lives but there's no universal guidebook to follow on how to act that's going to apply to all of us.

Whether smiling out of politeness or laughing to keep from crying, we're all just there waiting until the storm passes when we can all go back to our lives.

Only there's no pause button during a tragedy and when we come back, we return to our lives already in progress. Hoping to board that roller coaster once again even though it hasn't actually stopped, we soon realize that we have no clue – not even a 1-10 facial translation chart – how we're supposed to act when we don't make it up that first hill fast enough.

The driving force behind Russell Harbaugh's potent and intensely personal family drama Love After Love, it's precisely this idea of behavior over story and more importantly, how to cope when it all goes wrong that makes this achingly real ensemble piece so compelling to watch.


Setting its biggest scenes (including those that bookend the film) at key family gatherings in a way that recalls both Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters and Eric Rhomer's Autumn Tale, Love After Love lets us into the home and lives of a tight-knit New York family before, during, and after the loss of their beloved patriarch.

Penned by Harbaugh and his mentor, Judy Berlin director Eric Mendelsohn, as well written as it is, Love is less concerned with what its characters, including widowed mother Suzanne (Andie MacDowell) and her two grown sons, the emotionally needy Nick (Chris O’Dowd) and existentially lost Chris (James Adomian) actually say versus what they do and the way they say it.

Performed with gusto by its tremendous ensemble cast (especially a never better MacDowell and bracingly against type O’Dowd), Harbaugh and Mendelsohn respect both the actors and audience enough to skip over scene progressions from breakups to makeups.

Jumping right into the aftermath, they trust that we’ll be able to look past the external scale of 1-10 to see what's really going on. And this approach pays off extremely well in a pivotal second act sequence as Nick – having chased and transferred his affections once again to a new fiancé – brings Suzanne and Chris to the home of his soon to be in-laws for a Christmas party.

Not nearly ready to celebrate such a major holiday with strangers, let alone listen to speeches about marriage by a man of the house who’s not their own, we watch as Suzanne and Chris initially go through the motions of politeness, smiling at the right time and saying all the things you’re supposed to say.

While for Chris the facade soon goes downhill thanks to alcohol, even before we brace for impact, we witness not only the discomfort in Suzanne's eyes but the way she tries to chime in a second too late for it to be genuine (similar to the way we could read between Nick's reactions in act one).


Comparing and contrasting their behavior even more through the inverted mirror images of Nick and his fiancé later followed by Suzanne and her own new love (which inevitably causes a grenade to go off in the relationship between mother and sons), the inventive editing by Matthew C. Hart and John Magary adds a rich layer of subtext to Love After Love.

Not knowing how to act, let alone address the titular double standard that exists for each familial role, rather than face it head on, they instead try making their way up, down, and beyond the facial translation scale as they move through the five stages of grief.

Serving as a terrific showcase for O'Dowd and Adomian as well as a welcome return to substantive parts for the luminous MacDowell, while it's fundamentally Harbaugh's picture, I hope it might also encourage viewers to seek out his co-writer's masterful marvel Judy Berlin.

A veritable feature length extension, evolution, and adaptation of Harbaugh's acclaimed roughly twenty minute short, Rolling On the Floor Laughing, which is included on the DVD, Love was overlooked in its post-festival, limited theatrical run.


Owing to the filmmaker's age as well as his subsequent collaboration with former/fellow wonder boy Mendelsohn, while Love After Love is much more poetic and mature than its predecessor, Harbaugh's interest in the minutiae of visual storytelling and the way that behavior dictates plot is made abundantly clear in Rolling early on.

A chronicle of love after love indeed, although a few of Love's climactic scenes push the dial past authenticity and venture briefly into the realm of the Chekovian stage, Harbaugh's dramatic opus remains just as mesmerizing for those who love theater and literature as much as they do film.

Drawing inspiration from his own life as well as Maurice Pialat’s The Mouth Agape for the film overall, while the true test for Harbaugh will be in whatever he delivers next, on a scale of 1-10, I’m not worried at all.

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.

7/20/2018

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.