9/13/2019

Netflix Movie Review: Tall Girl (2019)


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Whether it's the way you laugh too loud when you're nervous, stammer when you're shy, or seem to forget everything you've ever studied when you're handed a test, everyone has at least one thing that they wish they could change about themselves. And while most of us have figured out how to cope with or adapt to this perceived flaw as adults, there's nothing like high school to magnify these insecurities even more and doubly so when the thing we wish we could change about ourselves is something physical.

In nearly six foot two inch sixteen-year-old Jodi's case, although a simple search on the internet reveals that there is such a thing as height reduction surgery, the excruciatingly painful procedure isn't exactly a practical solution for the New Orleans high school junior played by Ava Michelle. Hoping for the same effect, she tries slouching her way into invisibility to avoid all of the snickers, stares, and inane comments by classmates who ask her how the weather is up there, even though that line is older than the Civil War battles she reads about in her American history textbook.


Establishing the theme, first as she describes the alienation experienced by the main character in A Confederacy of Dunces to a classmate and then in her voice-over narration, Jodi serves as an pleasant, immediately relatable stand-in for any hangup the viewer might have about themselves. However, as well drawn as the three-dimensional Jodi is, the rest of the film's characters are thinly sketched caricatures of retro teen movie archetypes by comparison.

And this is evident right from the start as we meet her fiercest supporters including the fashionably hip Fareeda (Anjelika Washington) who puts bullies in their place with one well spun line and the Duckie inspired Jack Dunkleman (played by scene stealer Griffin Gluck) who's had a crush on Jodi for as long as Kimmy (Clara Wilsey) has tormented her since they were children. Suffice it to say that, despite the affability of the actors bringing them to life, everyone in Tall Girl's orbit seems like they've wandered over from film sets of decades gone by, which basically makes them the "how's the weather up there?" of teen movie characters.


Although screenwriter Sam Wolfson tries to update the proceedings with escape rooms and gluten free bakeries, it feels mostly stale. Inconsistent in its characterization as it undercuts Jodi's mom (Angela Kinsey) as a passive aggressive prom queen and makes her dad (Steve Zahn) a hyper focused alarmist waiting for his tall daughter's health to fail in their earliest scenes before they mellow into almost entirely different people later on, it's to Kinsey and Zahn's credit that we remain interested in their roles.

While it's refreshing to make Jodi's beautiful pageant perfect older sister Harper (Sabrina Carpenter) so supportive of her "big little sister" instead of making her another object of misery in Jodi's life, with Harper's laughable grasp of history and pleas that Jodi should slap her if she eats carbs, she quickly turns into yet another stereotype.


Hopeful when Stig (Luke Eisner), a dreamy Swedish exchange student arrives who's even taller than she is, Jodi experiences her first serious crush and turns to Harper for help attracting the boy who's staying with Dunkleman. Pursuing Jodi in very different ways to differing degrees of success, Eisner and Gluck play off each other very well and share some unexpectedly funny, awkward scenes in the process. Things get even more complicated when her nemesis Kimmy sets her sights on and lands the handsome Swede, but when the two find they have a musical connection, the first of several love triangles develops.

Unwisely relegating Jodi's best friend Fareeda to extra status as the film goes on when some of the makeover scenes with Carpenter and Kinsey might've benefited from a young comedic buffer as opposed to the requisite mini dressing room montage and a lame in-film ad for Mac Cosmetics, it's clear that the film just doesn't know how to make adequate use of its lively ensemble. Not the only gimmicky scene, Tall Girl features a cringe-worthy moment where Jodi's parents host a Tip Toppers tall person's club party that goes nowhere. Likewise, infusing the film with a questionable message where each time Jodi starts to have confidence, it's inspired by a guy either finding her attractive or doing something selfless for her, by the time we reach the obligatory Mean Girls reminiscent big moment at the dance where our heroine literally tells us what she's learned, it doesn't seem remotely genuine or earned.


Still entertaining enough to watch in bed on a sick day or up late at a sleepover, despite Tall Girl's wholly original main character with whom many viewers will easily identify thanks to their own hangups, it's one of Netflix's weakest original YA romcoms. Taking a backseat to the streaming giant favorite To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Tall Girl also pales in comparison to the similarly themed, infinitely better structured (and likewise '80s inspired) Sierra Burgess is a Loser.

Yet with the color blocked background on display in Tall Girl's opening frames as Jodi discusses Dunces, the keen visual eye of first time feature filmmaker Nzingha Stewart makes for some truly memorable scenes that keep our interest even when the film itself starts to meander.


A romcom loving tall girl myself (and one who — just shy of six feet — was actually taller than her male first grade teacher when she was in the first grade), needless to say, I was easily the ideal audience for the film. Unfortunately, no matter how much I wished otherwise, in the end the Netflix movie plays like a version of teen movie Cliffs Notes where everything stays on the surface and, save for one moving scene with Steve Zahn, never gets too deep.

Though Tall Girl comes up short — to use a criticism that's sure to be the critic's version of "how's the weather up there," — it's still an admirable attempt to walk a mile in a sixteen-year-old girl's size thirteen men's shoes. Bolstered by a charming cast, while it's obvious that the film's heart is in the right place, unfortunately, Girl needs more authenticity and less artifice to make it count.


Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. https://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.

9/06/2019

Movie Review: Genèse (2018)


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AKA: Genesis

I know he likes me but does he like me? How do I ask her to be my girlfriend? What does he mean we should stay together but see other people?

Three Québécois teenagers navigate their first twinges of love, the devastation of heartbreak, the mysteries of desire, and other affairs of the heart in Philippe Lesage's new film Genèse, which follows in the footsteps of his previous pictures Copenhagen: A Love Story and The Demons in blending together memoir and fiction.

Often letting the camera linger on the behavior and body language of its main characters and the way that it changes when they're in front of a classroom, crowd, or alone, Genèse uses sumptuous, languorous visuals and its moodily atmospheric soundtrack to deposit us into the heart of the film in a way that recalls the work of Sofia Coppola and Wong Kar-wai.


Drawing on his background as a documentary filmmaker to establish the film's setting in and around private schools, colleges, and camps in Quebec, Lesage paints a picture of three teens, different both on the surface and in personality, who are looking for love.

In the film's strongest and most emotionally arresting storyline, we meet Guillaume (Théodore Pellerin) who, though always up for a laugh or impression as the class clown at his private boys school, is rather introspective and insecure deep down. Reading J. D. Salinger and listening to The Smiths, Guillaume is the type of dreamy eyed boy we would've had a crush on in high school, only to discover later on that he has a complicated crush of his own that might redefine his entire life.

Startled when her first serious boyfriend tells her that he thinks they should be free to sleep with other people, Guillaume's older half-sister Charlotte (Noée Abita) is sent reeling, moving from one relationship to the next (and always with the wrong guy), which has devastating consequences as the film continues and editor Mathieu Bouchard-Malo weaves the two plots together.


Venturing away from the city into a nature based coda, we're introduced to the stand-in for the filmmaker in the form of adolescent Félix (Édouard Tremblay-Grenier), who faces the first stirrings of love for a girl he becomes enamored of at summer camp. Though still filmed in a lush, contemporary style by cinematographer Nicolas Canniccioni, there's something delightfully old fashioned about the pacing and mood of the final section of Genèse, which feels as though it could be played side by side with François Truffaut's frothy 400 Blows follow-up and tale of first love, Antoine and Colette.

A welcome shot of instantly relatable nostalgia, Genèse's last act is played in a higher, lighter key than the rest of the picture. Yet, coming as it does after a shocking act of violence takes place, which is immediately glossed over by ignoring the aftermath, it takes a minute for the film (as well as the viewer) to convincingly ease back into the innocent reverie of summer flirtation and romance.

Inspired by real stories of assault that had been shared with Lesage by friends, while the stark, matter-of-fact portrayal alarms us enough, the film’s real misstep was in leaving these characters much too quickly before we truly know how they are, which gives the scene a cavalier aura that I can't imagine the filmmaker had intended. Yet tonal and structural misstep aside, Genèse manages to fall back into place when its last young protagonist falls in love.


Using music — especially "Outside" by Tops as a motif throughout — much like Xavier Dolan's Heartbeats, Genèse boasts a superb soundtrack that you'll find yourself wanting to Shazam multiple times throughout the film. Translating the characters' inner lives in a way we can easily understand through not only its musical counterpoint but also the way in which the camera holds on the faces of the trio as they try to reconcile reality with their hearts, Lesage invites us to take the journey as well — walking beside the teens in good times and bad. Like a secret diary come to life with all of its highs and lows, and the little things we know that will stay with us forever, Philippe Lesage's Genèse feels like the cinematic equivalent of a memory.


Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. https://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: Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (1978)


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Shopping for a new lover for his depressed wife, Raoul (Gérard Depardieu) gets more than he bargained for when the man he picks up, Stéphane (Patrick Dewaere) not only falls in love with his wife but becomes his new best friend in the process. And while normally this would be a recipe for disaster, in writer-director Bertrand Blier's hands, it's just the beginning of what turns out to be a beautiful friendship.

Highly verbal in the streets and easygoing in the sheets, in Blier's freewheeling sex comedy Get Out Your Handkerchiefs, the two men bond over Mozart (who they feel would've been their third amigo) as well as their devotion to the sweet but chronically ill Solange (Carole Laure) who they're sure they can cure with sex, if not with them than perhaps someone else.


Treated as little more than a neurotic sex object by the men in her life who are desperate to give her the baby they're convinced will fix everything, the inarguably underwritten and frequently cavalierly nude Laure is easily the most shortchanged participant in Blier's daring ode to l'amour. Still, once you give into the shenanigans, it's hard to deny the effervescently irreverent film's charms.

And indeed Handkerchiefs' success is entirely dependent upon the laissez-faire attitude of the first half of the film in order to adequately prepare viewers for the startling turns of the second, which finds Solange seduced by a genius outcast who, despite acting even more mature than her other lovers, has barely entered his teen years. A flabbergasting development, it's to the cast's extraordinary credit that they're able to sell Blier's ribald, increasingly satirical twists without derailing the picture completely as a gender swapped spin on Lolita rather than a remarkably frank romcom.


Intriguingly, Handkerchiefs sent shockwaves in the American media with its one step forward, two steps back depiction and treatment of Laure more than anything else when it was released at the height of the sexual revolution. Nonetheless, the film, which garnered the director and France the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award was also named the National Society of Film Critics Best Film of 1978 over The Deer Hunter and Days of Heaven.

A light as a feather ode to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, with little regard to social mores or laws, Blier's film operates like a contemporary fairy tale as opposed to anything even remotely steeped in reality. Using everything from Solange's knitting to the way that her lovers gaze at her in her sleep and their taste in classical music as motifs that pay off later in unexpected ways, Blier's background as a playwright and novelist undeniably enriches the film as it continues.

Newly released to Blu-ray in a brilliant fortieth anniversary restoration, Handkerchiefs, which also features a memorable Cesar award-winning score by Georges Delerue, remains as uncompromisingly subversive as it is impossibly entertaining.


Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. https://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: Back of the Net (2019)


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Before she accidentally got on the wrong bus and wound up not at Harold Academy Australian Semester at Sea but Harold Soccer Academy instead, the only experience that young gifted American science student Cory Bailey (Sofia Wylie) had with the sport was spray painting soccer balls for her AP solar system diorama.

Forced to get a lot more acquainted with soccer since, by the time she's discovered her mistake her ship has literally sailed and her parents are practicing medicine in New Dehli at the moment, Cory has no choice but to make peace with the ball she'd much rather paint than kick.


Thrilled when she finds out she'll be able to study chemistry — as all student athletes are required to take classes at the academy as well — although soccer takes some getting used to, Cory is determined to make the best of it. Buoyed by a great group of new friends including cute, talented player Oliver (Trae Robin), though she's tested throughout Louise Alston's jubilant feature Back of the Net, Cory's positive attitude goes a long way when she makes an enemy out of Tiarnie Coupland's queen bee, Edie.

While there's nothing original about TV movie veterans Alison Spuck McNeeley and Casie Tabanou's admittedly paint-by-numbers script which adheres very closely to the underdog sports movie playbook established over the last five decades of cinematic storytelling, Net stays afloat with its upbeat spirit and breakneck pace.


Planting the seeds for actual depth and/or stronger subplot potential early on, such as when we learn that Oliver's financially strapped family has been going through a tough time, unfortunately the eighty-two minute feature doesn't give moments like these the time or support needed to let them bloom. Yet although it might not win over adults who've seen so many underdog sports movies that they've gotten the mechanics of the plot down to a science, by refreshingly centering its tale on a young woman of color and hiring women behind-the-scenes to bring it to life, this girl power movie's heart is definitely in the right place.

A surprisingly effective — if ultimately underwhelming — combination of science and sport, Alston's film is sure to strike a chord with its target audience who may have seen the Australian feature on the Disney Channel before its recent DVD release. While Back of the Net doesn't manage to transcend its predictable formula, by moving as fast as a soccer ball down the field, its irrepressible enthusiasm and infectious energy is hard to deny.



Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. https://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.

8/30/2019

Movie Review: Hot Air (2018)


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As a self-described "deliverer of hard truths" who knows full well that it's not love but anger that keeps him on the air everyday, alt-right shock jock radio host Lionel Macomb (Steve Coogan) implores his listeners to bring him their "rage."

Ranting about personal responsibility while simultaneously blaming the other (liberals, immigrants, etc.), Lionel is challenged to practice what he preaches by his sixteen-year-old niece Tess (Taylor Russell) who tracks him down when her mother lands in rehab and she needs a place to stay. Calling him a hypocrite when his first instinct is to kick her out of his posh New York apartment because that would mean relying on a governmental program — child services — to pick up the slack, after the brainy Tess threatens to send out a tweet arguing that what her uncle says and does are two very different things, Lionel gives in.

Impressed by both the girl's moxie as well as her aptitude for mental chess as the two relatives test each other's boundaries, Lionel rebounds back from a predictably rocky beginning by bringing his newfound niece to work with him at the radio station. Hoping to use any issues that the liberal minded, open-hearted Tess cares about as fodder for his daily bile, after he ambushes her on the air for a soundbite, she calls him out on his unwillingness to engage in any real debate since he's armed with sound effects, a production team, and the mute button.


A welcome opportunity to satirize the role that rancorous shows like Lionel's play in further dividing the populace as the new breed of infotainment that — neither informative or entertaining — runs on anger, Hot Air might crib a scene straight out of Network, but Lionel's venom goes largely unchecked from start to finish. Rather than zero in on any one argument (maddeningly, even when it ties right into the overall plot), Hot Air leaves politics behind to concern itself with the architect behind the angry airwaves instead.

Unsure whether to focus on Lionel's personal or professional awakening, the script written by first time screenwriter Will Reichel unsuccessfully tries to combine the two arcs and becomes a big mute button in the process. Unwilling to fully explore just who the unlikable character really is in both spheres of his life, whenever Hot Air stars to veer over the line of acceptability to show us Lionel cheating on his lovely publicist girlfriend or bullying a caller who turns out to be a child or a veteran, the film overcorrects. Pulling us back from the edge, Air tries to paint our politically incorrect lead in a still politically correct light when it could've benefited from presenting him to the viewer, warts and all. And although it hints at more depth as the walls that Lionel hides behind start to crumble when Tess' arrival forces him to come face-to-face with his past, Reichel's script routinely comes up short.


By now a veritable pro at evoking empathy from viewers regardless of how unsavory his characters are — not to mention uniquely qualified to play a larger than life radio host, thanks to his turns in Alan Partridge and 24 Hour Party People — Coogan takes to this role like a flag pin to Lionel's suit jacket. In fact he's so good here that he nearly fools you into thinking the film is more cohesive than it is from start to finish. Yet, featuring fine support from Neve Campbell and Skylar Astin, Hot Air is less a one man show for the always compelling Coogan than a capable two-hander between himself and talented up and comer Russell, who manages to not only hold her own with her costars but also pull focus as the one character we remain wholeheartedly invested in throughout.

Though augmented by its performances, the otherwise ambitious Air is in desperate need of a rewrite, which could've netted a slightly bigger budget for a film where far too many scenes feel like they're missing, rushed, or unfinished. And while The Wedding Singer director Frank Coraci — reteaming here with his Around the World in 80 Days star Coogan — knows how to make an affable movie and Russell and Coogan share some charming scenes, Air's lightness never feels earned. Pushing us in a few different directions, while the last thing we want is to bring Lionel our rage, Hot Air would've worked so much better if it had followed Lionel's lead and delivered to audiences some hard truths about American politics as well as the man behind the microphone who spends his days stoking the fires of hate.


Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. https://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.

Movie Review: Official Secrets (2019)


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As young British intelligence specialist Katharine Gun in Official Secrets, Keira Knightley tries to stop an illegal war when she receives a mind-blowing NSA e-mail in the 2003 lead-up to the invasion of Iraq that might as well have been titled "Blackmail Help Wanted."

Alarmed to find the United States requesting Britain's assistance in gathering dirt on members of the UN Security Council that they could then use to force those representatives to vote in favor of the war in the Middle East, the previously unassuming, twenty-something translator knows she can't just sit back and watch her country begin the march toward an unjust war.

Bound by the Official Secrets Act, which makes it illegal to disclose the intelligence she comes across at her job, Gun risks everything when she leaks the memo through an intermediary to the prominent British newspaper The Observer, and becomes a whistleblower in the process.


A fascinating true story that — perhaps for obvious reasons — received little to no mention in the United States, Rendition and Eye in the Sky director Gavin Hood's Official Secrets had all the makings of a successful political drama, which makes this drearily shot and dully paced end result all the more disappointing.

An ordinary woman thrust into an extraordinary situation who let her conscience be her guide and stood firm even when the government threatened her family, Gun is an admirable figure both in real life and on paper. And that is precisely why it's such a shame that she's turned into a one dimensional placeholder for political speak onscreen. Revealing very little about Gun as either a woman or a spy, although the usually stellar Knightley excels during a few brief moments of speechifying, far too often she sleepwalks throughout Secrets in a woefully underwritten role.


In fact, not knowing exactly what to do with the everywoman hero at the heart of the film, Official Secrets only springs to life when it changes points-of-view away from Gun. Illustrating the ways in which it might’ve worked better as a thriller, we find ourselves completely caught up when the film focuses on both the trio of newspapermen at The Observer who published the shocking front page story just seventeen days before the U.S. invaded Iraq and the human rights lawyer who eventually took Gun’s case.

Trying to hit all the high points as a faithful chronicle of events without building any real connection to the actual architects behind the action (except in one nerve-wracking scene where Gun tries to track down her husband when retaliation by the government hits close to home), this workmanlike effort plays best as a cinematic equivalent to Cliffs Notes.


Leaving the cast floundering with an emotionally staccato script by Hood alongside husband and wife team Sara and Gregory Bernstein, which was based upon based upon Thomas and Marcia Mitchell's 2008 book The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War, Official Secrets lacks both the humanism that drew us into Hood's politically driven Rendition as well as a strong narrative arc.

A nonetheless eye-opening and still timely saga that — from a historical perspective alone — is sure to spark the curiosity of American viewers who are largely unfamiliar with Gun's actions, regrettably there's nothing about Hood's interpretation that elevates Official Secrets beyond the level of an average, interchangeable made for premium cable movie you're likely to see at home on Saturday nights.


Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. https://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.

Movie Review: Falling Inn Love (2019)


Now Available on Netflix 


Clicking a link in an unsolicited email is enough to give you pause. Being asked to use your credit card to pay for the chance to win an inn on the other side of the world is when most people would probably press delete.

Not so for Christina Milian's Gabriela Diaz, who — buoyed by wine as well as the loss of her job and her boyfriend in the span of a week — is ready to take a risk. Taking a chance not only on the contest but also a plane and three buses, Gabriela journeys to New Zealand upon learning that her one in a million shot paid off.


Paid, however, is the optimal word as Gabriela discovers when she arrives to find the inn falling down. A veritable money pit that's occupied by a goat as well as its earlier owner in the form of a ghost, Gabriela realizes that she'll have to max out her credit cards if she has any hope of matching the inn to the sparkling profile picture that first inspired her to click.

Applying for an entrepreneur visa and enlisting the help of the best contractor on the island, the ruggedly handsome Jake Taylor (Adam Demos) who doubles as the volunteer fire chief and is also a dead ringer for Simon Baker, Gabriela gets to work as an attraction develops between the two.

A pleasantly fast-paced — if admittedly formulaic — featherweight romantic comedy, Falling Inn Love is the equivalent of a paperback summer beach read you'd find in the airport next to a bottle of sunscreen.


Written by Hilary Galanoy and Elizabeth Hackett, scripters of the similarly appealing made for cable romcoms Geek Charming with Sarah Hyland for Disney and Fir Crazy with Sarah Hyland for Hallmark, there's very little to differentiate this breezily charming Netflix title from the type of fare that Hallmark premieres every Saturday night (and all through the holidays). In fact, with two attractive people fixing up a bed and breakfast in the country with a goat, its plot is fairly similar to one of Hallmark's best loved original movies, All Of My Heart, which has spawned two sequels.

Yet, thanks to some inventive subplots involving old love letters and green energy as well as the likable ensemble cast who bring easy smiles as friendly townspeople immediately ready and willing to become Gabriela's new best friends, Cruel Intentions director Roger Kumble makes the material sing. As a result, Falling Inn Love feels fresher than it is in reality.


Filling every frame with warmly lit HGTV renovation show porn (and even dropping in a reference to Chip and Joanna Gaines) along with the scenic beauty of its New Zealand setting, while it isn't quite as effective as last year's outstanding crop of Netflix summer efforts including To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Falling Inn Love is just the thing to close out the season. In other words (and especially when you need a pick me up), this streaming title is one link that's definitely okay to click.


Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. https://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.

8/23/2019

Movie Review: For Me and My Gal (1942) & 5 More Gene Kelly Musicals to See


In honor of Gene Kelly's birthday today, I wrote a piece for Netflix's DVD blog "In the Envelope," highlighting five musicals starring the Philadelphia born and raised actor-dancer-singer-choreographer and filmmaker that classic movie fans will definitely want to see. 

Originally intended to chronicle "Six You Shouldn't Miss," the first film I included in the piece was unfortunately unavailable to rent via Netflix but it is currently airing on The Criterion Channel, so I'm posting it here along with a link back to the main article at Netflix's DVD.com so you can discover the rest. 


FOR ME AND MY GAL (1942)


Buoyed by the confidence of MGM producer Arthur Freed and the support of his co-star turned mentor Judy Garland, as soon as Gene Kelly appears onscreen — all swagger and smiles — to flirt with the girls passing by, you barely need the train he just stepped off of to tell you that a new star has arrived.

Centered on the relationship between a cocksure vaudeville headliner (Kelly) and his partner (Garland), which is threatened by the arrival of World War I, director Busby Berkeley's bittersweet black-and-white musical boasts not only a breakthrough performance by newcomer Kelly but also one for veteran Garland, who was trying to transition out of kiddie musicals and into more grown-up fare.

A moving drama with very little humor as opposed to most of Kelly's other MGM work from the era, while surprisingly dark for a musical, the two actors rise exceptionally well to the challenges of the picture. And through the film's World War I backdrop, FOR ME AND MY GAL drives home the realities of the second world war in a very real way.


A meeting of minds and skill sets that inspired a close friendship between the two leads, while it's Garland whom Kelly credits with launching his career (as well as teaching him how to act for the camera instead of the stage), the actress used the opportunity of working with the talented choreographer to learn how to dance at a professional level.

The first feature starring Gene Kelly and Judy Garland, fortunately FOR ME AND MY GAL would not be the last. The two musical favorites reteamed in a handful of films from MGM cameo cavalcades ZIEGFELD'S FOLLIES and THOUSANDS CHEER to Vincente Minnelli's sensual swashbuckler THE PIRATE, right up through their final pairing in SUMMER STOCK.




Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. https://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. #DVDNetflix - #DVDNation #ad

8/14/2019

Blu-ray Review: Ash is Purest White (2018)


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If Michelangelo Antonioni had directed a Chinese gangster movie, it might've looked something like Jia Zhangke's Ash is Purest White, in which a romance between a jianghu underworld boss and his loyal girlfriend plays out against the desolate backdrop of 7,700 km of mainland China over a seventeen year period.

Conceived by the filmmaker after looking at deleted scenes from two of his previous pictures which featured his wife and filmic muse Zhao Tao, Zhangke blended together the unconditional love of Tao's Unknown Pleasures character and the complexity of her Still Life alter ego to create a whole new woman he envisioned coming from his coal mining hometown in northwestern China.


Fittingly, for a film that was crafted from two others, Ash wears its cinematic influences proudly and none more so than through its prominent use of Sally Yeh's theme song from John Woo's 1989 Hong Kong crime classic, The Killer.

Whereas Woo's film focused on a hitman's devotion to Yeh's beautiful singer, whom he accidentally blinded during a job, Ash turns the premise inside out as we watch the protective Qiao (a phenomenal Tao) risk everything for her love, even after their relationship has ended.

So committed to the handsome, charismatic jianghu boss Bin (Liao Fan) that she fires a gun in public in order to save his life when they're attacked by a rival gang, Qiao emerges from jail half a decade later determined to pick things up exactly where they left off.


With architectural metaphors a la Antonioni, Zhangke tells a second story about the way that time changes not only people but their overall environment. Whether in brief scenes that highlight the collapse of rural towns or by way of a loudspeaker on a ship in the middle of the Three Gorges where we're told that everything we're looking at will be underwater in the same amount of time that Qiao was behind bars, Zhangke cleverly links the plight of his leads to their homeland.

Knowing this, with his usual cinematographer unavailable, Zhangke found the ideal candidate to step in via Eric Gautier, whose breathtaking work with Olivier Assayas, Alain Resnais, Sean Penn, Ang Lee, and especially Walter Salles' The Motorcycle Diaries perfectly illustrates his talent for making the most of the environment. Captured with five different cameras to bring different textures and moods to its seventeen year span from 2001 to 2018, Ash is as much a bittersweet reverie for the land as well as a love gone by and Gautier's visuals convey as much meaning as Zhangke's sparse dialogue throughout.


Anchoring the film whenever it starts to meander, Tao's mesmerizing chemistry with Fan brings their scenes heartbreakingly to life but none more so than when she realizes once again that she has to be strong for them both and face that their relationship is over . . . even if we know that that's just what they're telling themselves before the film echoes The Killer once again.

As beautiful as it is soulful, best paired not only with Woo but also Antonioni's L'eclisse and Wenders' Paris, Texas, in Zhangke's enigmatic existential romance, two lovers journey towards and away from one another out of the underworld on an unforgettable seventeen year opus home.


Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. https://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: Girls of the Sun (2018)


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Named for the all-female battalion of Yazidi captives turned fighters striving to liberate their Iraqi home from ISIS control at the heart of its fact-based storyline, Eva Husson's Girls of the Sun is a film full of flashbacks.

Relying heavily upon expositional dialogue to bring us up to speed on the background of the French journalist played by Emmanuelle Bercot who arrives on the scene to cover the women with a Marie Colvin inspired eye-patch, Husson opts for a much more cinematic approach when it comes to Bercot's co-star.


Transporting us out of the contemporary battleground to just before ISIS invaded the mountains of Sinjar in Northern Iraq to kidnap 7,000 women and children after killing the men on a mission of genocide, Husson paints a picture of squad leader Bahar (Golshifteh Farahani) back when she was a wife, mother, and lawyer in ways that simple words could not convey.

Following Bahar's harrowing journey first as a captive in an environment of rape and degradation up through her daring escape before she found herself in a position to fight back, it doesn't take long for us to realize that the film's gripping flashbacks are far more compelling than the thinly plotted, disappointingly predictable action of present day.


Giving Farahani ample opportunity to shine, despite a genre required exciting finale, the rest of the film serves as little more than a weak framing device to Bahar's riveting backstory which should've taken center stage.

Not knowing what to do with Bercot's character, while the decision to offer a different perspective on the war by including a European journalist to serve as somewhat of an audience member surrogate was a good one overall, Husson and her co-writer Jacques Akchoti seem unsure of how to adequately insert her into the goings on.


An undeniably muddled yet noble attempt to share these women's experiences with the world, while it's obvious that Bercot's Mathilde has her own tragic story to tell, just like Bahar is shortchanged by hopscotching back and forth in time with varying degrees of success, our journalist is often pushed to the sidelines as she alternates from participant to spectator throughout.

Elevated by Mattias Troelstrup's soul-stirring cinematography that brings unexpected beauty to the gritty world of Sun, although we're unable to feel consistently connected to any particular heroine due to its awkward structure, the film is at its best when Husson brings us back to the past in order to shed new light on these fiery Girls of the Sun.


Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. https://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.

8/05/2019

Blu-ray Review: Hold Back the Dawn (1941)



Stuck in a small Mexican stopover town where the one thing that sets it apart is the fact that it shares a border with the United States, Romanian dancer turned gigolo Georges Iscovescu (Charles Boyer) decides it's time to make a great escape.

Having mapped out a shortcut to the states, Georges opts to seduce his way into American citizenship through a green card marriage to the spinster teacher (played by Olivia de Havilland) he sets out to woo.


Sidelined by car trouble while chaperoning a group of rambunctious boys during a field trip on the fourth of July, the sweet if naive California teacher gets taken in by the smooth talking stranger when he delays her overnight and steers her into a whirlwind romance that ends in a rushed wedding at dawn.

Separated for a few weeks while the papers go through, Emmy Brown (de Havilland) surprises her new husband back in Mexico before he can legally cross the border to end the marriage he orchestrated by filing some papers of his own.

Setting off on a spontaneous road trip, Georges is proof that the fastest way to get to know someone is to travel together as, not too long after they've left, he's startled to find that he's developed a strong attraction to (gasp) his own wife.


Out of respect for perhaps the first woman he doesn't want to love and leave, Georges tries to tamp down his desire by feigning an injury to prevent him from consummating the marriage.

Cranking up the heat, first in a scene where he can't bear to look at Emma perfectly framed in the rear-view mirror, followed by another where — having stripped down and run into the waves — he discovers she's not the schoolmarm he initially thought, Georges realizes he can no longer ignore his heart in Hold Back the Dawn.

Beautifully photographed, the artistry of Oscar nominated cinematographer Leo Tover shines through not only in the aforementioned scenes but also when our leads exchange vows once again in a religious ceremony filled with candles and shadows.


Despite its requisite World War II era flag-waving, Dawn it seems is as romantically optimistic as it is filled with cynical wit. Of course, this tonally sophisticated blend was soon to become a trademark of screenwriter Billy Wilder, who penned the script with Charles Brackett.

Based on Ketti Frings' story, "Memo to a Movie Producer," which later became a novel, while the Hollywood set framing device feels like a bit of a self-serving rah-rah Tinseltown prologue, Wilder and Brackett counter Dawn's protracted artificiality with authenticity, canceling it out in a starkly realistic first act anchored by Boyer's world-weary narration.


A recurring Wilder device, after Boyer used his weight as a star to axe a few scenes helmed by Mitchell Leisen, Hold Back the Dawn became the last script Wilder wrote that he didn't direct. Still, obviously proud of the work, it was Dawn which Wilder shared with Raymond Chandler to give the hard-boiled crime novelist a crash course in crafting screenplays.

It's a timeless film that's timelier than ever today. Boasting an all too important speech about the vital role that new immigrants from all over play in shaping American culture, this border set melodrama takes on added gravitas in 2019 given the Trump administration's xenophobic war on immigrants who have dared to cross the border from Mexico in search of the American dream.


Featuring Paulette Goddard's scene-stealing performance as Georges' dance turned bedroom partner, now that the cover of night has begun to lift on Dawn thanks to Arrow's velvety rich Blu-ray restoration, Mitchell Leisen's overlooked six-time Oscar nominee won't stay hidden for long.


Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. https://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.