Friday, August 26, 2016

Southside with You [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB ()  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars) (4 Stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review

BET coverage
Ebony coverage coverage coverage (N. Allen) interview w. the film's stars 

ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (O. Henderson) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review  

Southside with You [2016] (written and directed by Richard Tanne) is a lovely, well written "When Barack met Michelle" / "origins-story" chronicling the very first date between Barack Obama (played in the film excellently by Parker Sawyers) and his wife, then Michelle Robinson (played again here, very, very well by Tika Sumpter). 

Indeed, this is a movie that _a lot of young people_ (teens and above) really ought to see, as it models a _really good_ (and future producing...) first date -- ending _not_ "in bed" but after a 1/2 day of talking, strolling through a pretty cool downtown Chicago art exhibit (featuring the paintings of African American former football star turned painter Ernie Barnes [wikip] [website] [Amzn]), a community service gathering and a movie (Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing [1989]) ... _with a kiss_ after some ice cream ;-). 

Other reviewers (above) quite rightly compare it to Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise [1995], another film about two young 20-somethings, who come to enjoy an extended day becoming "a date of sorts" that also comes to produce (at least cinematically) "a future" together (two more films, made at nine year intervals, the latest being Before Midnight [2013], each again chronicling a both random and yet significant day in the lives of the two protagonists).

Both the current film (by Richard Tanne) and Linklater's extended periodic series remind us that romance playing-out with an eye toward the longer term / a future is both possible and satisfying in a way that a (using the language of _my_ younger years) "wham, bam, thank you mam" encounter (or even a series of them) is not.

Good job!  Folks, very good job!

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

War Dogs [2016]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (L)  ChicagoTribune (1 1/2 Stars) (2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (1/2 Star)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McCarthy) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

War Dogs [2016] (directed and screenplay cowritten by based on the Rolling Stone article "Arms and the Dudes" [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Guy Larson [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is an ugly film about an ugly aspect of war -- Profiteering -- that will ultimately offend a lot of Viewers.

Yes, most of us will accept the premise that with War comes _some_ Profiteering.  What (I hope...) will offend most Viewers are the story's assumptions that (1) War is _only_ about Profiteering (tell that to veterans / their loved ones to say nothing of the loved ones of the war dead / injured) and (2) the two protagonists in this story deserve to be considered "just regular guys out to make a buck" (perhaps at the expense of unsuspecting "losers" -- including said VETERANS (!) as well as THE ENTIRE COUNTRY).

In the story, two twenty something "dudes" David Packouz (played by Miles Teller) and Ephraim Diveroli (played by Jonah Hill) from Miami with some startup money from somewhere find that they can make ENORMOUS AMOUNTS OF MONEY finding and selling stuff to the U.S. military listed on a Pentagon sponsored procurement website (apparently a "Craigslist for Guns...").  The explanation for the creation for this strange and apparently _open_ website was an over-reaction to G.W. Bush era V.P. Dick Cheney linked Halliburton Corp having been previously given BILLIONS OF DOLLARS of "no bid" contract business by the Pentagon.  So ... the procurement website "opened the military procurement business" to BASICALLY EVERYBODY ... including the two schemers in this film.

And so the two anti-heroes ... take advantage of the system ... and at least thankfully end-up getting (somewhat) caught.  Still, honestly their punishment seemed IMHO to be very very light for the level of betrayal of the public's trust.  Sigh ... KNOWING PERSONALLY people who war risking their lives for the country (and honestly looking to eventually cover use their time in the military _to pay for college_) I do find this story appalling.

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Friday, August 19, 2016

Ben Hur 3D [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Ben Hur 3D [2016] (directed by Timur Bekmambetov , screenplay by Keith R. Clarke and John Ridley based on the novel [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Lew Wallace [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is a film that like many / most of my generation, I went to skeptically.  Having seen it now, like most others, I'm more-or-less certain that the current film will never attain the Epic / Awesome Stature of the celebrated 1959 version that starred the "Larger-than-Life" CHARLTON HESTON ... However, having said this, I _must add_ that do think that this is NOT a bad film and to the extent that it serves to "update the presentation" and (re)introduce Ben Hur to a new generation, I DO THINK THAT (3D and ALL...) THE CURRENT FILM DOES A PRETTY GOOD (to VERY GOOD) JOB.

Readers of my blog will note that I generally _support_ "updated presentations" even quite _imaginative_ ones -- True Grit [2010], The Three Musketeers [2011], Anna Karenina [2012], The Great Gatsby [2013] -- so long as the update was NOT just "an update for the sake of updating," but offered something something truly compelling/new of past cinematic versions:

True Grit [2010] for example sought to "return to the original novel" (where as its celebrated 1969 cinematic version had been overwhelmed by the "Larger-than-Life" presence of JOHN WAYNE). 

The Three Musketeers [2011] was _really imaginative_ BUT invited Viewers to experience the story with "(re)newed eyes" as the ORIGINAL story was NOT MEANT to be "a dry/dusty Classic" but rather a YOUNG ADULT ADVENTURE STORY ... Thus "3D / Airships and all," I do believe that 2011 film _recaptured_ a lot of the _wonder_ of the original story (before it _became_ "a required read" for "advanced French Language classes ...").

Anna Karenina [2012] was IMHO simply a beautiful film that often felt like both a movie and a stage play (IMHO intentionally ... as the the film-makers sought to express the point that Anna Karenina (the story's tragic heroine who was destroyed by gossip) did seem to live a life in which she found herself "on stage" (being gossiped about) whether she liked it or not).

Finally, the failings of the unnecessary 3D notwithstanding, LEONARDO DICAPRIO simply _nailed_ the role of the tragic hero Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby [2013] in a way that previously "Larger than Life" ROBERT REDFORD simply could not (Jay Gatsby was _not_ Redford's role to play ... while DiCaprio, IMHO was almost born to play it.  IMHO, Redford was instead "born to play" roles like his in The Natural [1984]).

Now, I have reviewed over the years some _terrible_ updates / remakes of "classic" stories -- from The Legend of Hercules [2011], to Young Messiah [2016], to the second (but not the most recent third) film of the Star Trek "reboot" series -- I thought Star Trek into Darkness [2013] was simply awful (frenetic / "action filled" for "action's" sake) while do think that the more recent Star Trek Beyond [2016] was finally (re)gaining its footing.  Still I do enjoy being surprised by something "new" that invites _new_ insight.

To the current film then ...

I do think that the general lack of "Larger than Life" stars in the new (2016) version of Ben Hur is A PLUS (yes, "Larger than Life" MORGAN FREEMAN does play a narrative / and still SECONDARY ROLE in the current film).  Thus viewers of the current film are allowed experience the story of Judah Ben-Hur (played by still relatively unknown / "up-and-coming" Jack Huston) rather than CHARLTON HESTON simply playing (and arguably OVERWHELMING) the role of Ben Hur.

As a result, the story of Ben Hur becomes almost "Job-like." At the beginning of the story, he's presented as "a Jewish prince" from a well-to-do / well-connected family (living admittedly in "Roman-occupied Rome at the time of Jesus"), who finds himself _losing everything_ as a result of "circumstances outside his control."  He suffers enormously, and and comes to harbor an enormous amount of anger.  Jesus, or at least his message (as Jesus is actually portrayed as only a peripheral figure in the tale) _helps_ him (and CAN HELP US) to _let go of that anger_.

As such, I have to say I loved this _simpler version_ -- 3D notwithstanding though the 3D, notwithstanding the chariot race that might have been too fast to film using this technology, was actually about as good / clear as I've seen it -- BETTER than the CHARLTON HESTON one.

In any case, the current version COULD encourage young people today (teenagers to 20-somethings) to pick up the original novel [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] or perhaps at least look-up the 1959-Charlton Heston version.

As such, a surprisingly _good job_ here.  Good job! ;-)

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Anthropoid [2016]

MPAA (R)  Aktuálně (2 Stars)  ČervenýKoberec (3 1/2 Stars)  ChiTrib/WashPost (4 Stars) (2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CSFD listing*

Aktuálně.cz (M. Svoboda) review*
Červený (Tereza Šedivá) review*
Česká (M. Vacková) review* (M. Spáčilová) review* (M. Kabát) review* (D. Křivánková) review*

ChiTrib/WashPost (C. Kompanek) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (N. D'Angelo) review

Anthropoid [2014] [IMDb] [CSFD]* (directed and screenplay cowritten by Sean Ellis [IMDb] along with Anthony Frewin [IMDb]) tells the story of the Czechoslovak WW II operation code-named "Anthropoid" [en.wikip] [cs.wikip]*(meaning similar-to but less-than-human) to assassinate then Nazi "Reichsprotektor" of occupied Bohemia and Moravia Reinhardt Heydrich [en.wikip] [cz.wikip]*[de.wikip]*.

The operation had been ordered by the Czechoslovak government in exile in Britain in good part "to prove" to their British hosts that Czechoslovakia was _still_ "willing to fight" Nazi tyranny, something rather rich / ironic because (1) Britain's previous Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was instrumental in _handing-over_ Czechoslovakia _on a plate_ to the Nazis in a vain / deluded attempt of averting war (arguably racially insulting the Czechoslovaks in the process: "This is all about a people we do not even know..."), and (2) despite this Czechoslovak as well as Polish pilots _helped save Britain_ two years later during the Battle of Britain [cs.wikip]*[cs.wikip-2]* when Britain was by then furiously making the planes to send-up to confront the Luftwaffe attacking Britain by that time but didn't have enough trained pilots to fly them.

In any case, the Czechoslovak government in exile ordered agents Jan Kubiš [cs.wikip]* (played in the film by Jamie Dornan) and Josef Gabčík [cs.wikip]* (played in the film by Cillian Murphy) to be parachuted into their Nazi occupied homeland to assassinate quite beastly Nazi governor (er "Reichsprotektor") of the country... hence the name for the operation "Anthropoid" (which means "similar-to but less-than-human"). 

The dangers of carrying-out the operation and its aftermath are presented quite faithfully in the film.  The Nazis, particularly under Reinhardt Heydrich, had largely decimated the Czech Resistance up to that point.  In his first days as "Reichsprotektor of Bohemia an Moravia", Heydrich had apparently ordered the summary execution of the Czech officers (several hundred in number) still detained as POWs from the initial over-running of the country (a massacre not unlike the infamous massacre of Polish Officers ordered by the NKVD in Katyń [en.wikip] [pl.wikip]*.  Captured resistance members were routinely tortured for their information and then shot after they were done.  A characteristic of the Czech resistance became being equipped with cyanide pills to take when capture was imminent so as to at least not reveal further information to the enemy.  A real fear expressed by the Czech resistance on the ground (and expressed quite poignantly in the film) was that an assassination attempt on Heydrich could endanger the very existence of the Czech people.  

Then, when the assassination was carried out, the reprisals _were_ horrific.  My own parents, Czech, lived as children in Nazi Occupied Prague at the time. BOTH had horrific stories to tell (I was convinced as a child that my life would _never be_ nearly as dramatic as theirs had been) about the "Heydrichiada" [cs.wikip]* (translated as "The Heydrich Affair", or more literally and certainly in our time _more evocatively_ as "The Heydrich Games") that followed his death: For days, no Czech in his/her right mind dared to go onto the streets.  The SS would just count-off ten people that they encountered and shoot the 10th one.  TRULY for a week or two after the attempt on Heydrich's life, life in Prague was like that of The Purge [2013] (with the SS given essentially a license to kill at will).  Entire sections of Prague were searched block by block, house by house.  My mom's family _happened to have someone over_ at the time WHO FORGOT HER ID-PAPERS at her home.  The SS had even come into the building where my mother's family lived, though apparently / luckily they left before making it to their apartment.  PEOPLE AND THEIR ENTIRE FAMILIES WERE SHOT IF SOMEONE AMONG THEM DIDN'T HAVE THEIR PAPERS WITH THEM.

In the end, according to the film at hand, some 5,000 Czechs were shot in reprisal for Heydrich's assassination, including, of course the massacre of all the men (by firing squad) and children (by gas), the women sent to forced labor camps (and told that their children were "sent to the Reich for adoption") of an entire _utterly random_ town, Lidice [en.wikip] [cs.wikip]*, condemned for its "involvement" in the assassination plot (it had none).

The final shoot-out [cs.wikip]*, dramatized in the film, between the Czechoslovak parachutists who had been sent to Prague to carry-out the assassination, and the SS, REALLY DID HAPPEN, and I MYSELF HAVE BEEN TO THE CHURCH - the Byzantine Rite Catholic Church of Cyril and Methodius [cs.wikip]* (who had fascinatingly been the APOSTLES TO THE SLAVS) - where it took place.

All in all, this was an excellent film.  And some of the actors / actresses, notably Aňa Geislerová [IMDb] [CSFD]*, several of whose films [1] [2] I have previously reviewed here) even played in this BRITISH, FRENCH and CZECH coproduction.  And it tells a story worth telling --Reinhardt Heydrich [en.wikip] [cz.wikip]*[de.wikip]*, the "Butcher of Prague", had been the #3 man in the Nazi heirarchy, and was the highest ranking Nazi to die in the War.  Further, despite the many, many Czech casualties following his assassination, _we_ Czechoslovaks GOT OUR GUY and remarkably _only him_, not his wife, not his kids, not even his guard.  WE GOT _HIM_.   And yes, despite the horrific costs that followed, there's something quite impressive about that.

As such, excellent and often deeply moving WW II film.

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChiTrib/LATimes (1 Star) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChiTrib/LATimes (K. Walsh) review (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (K. Rife) review 

Florence Foster Jenkins [2016] (directed by Stephen Frears, screenplay by Nicholas Martin) is a 1940s era period piece that, thematically, really should have been R-rated -- there's flagrant (if to an _adult_ not entirely incomprehensible) adultery in it, fairly frank discussion of the effects of syphilis (back in the day before antibiotics), and it does argue a quite fascinating case _for_ hypocrisy that a 12-13, 15 or even 20 or 25 year old would probably _not_ be able to wrap one's head around.  (Honestly, IMHO most young people would probably _not_ understand this film _at all_ and this is reflected in some of the review citations I offer above).

Florence Foster Jenkins [wikip] [IMDb] (played in the film quite marvelously, of course ;-), by Meryl Streep ;-) was a _rich_ aging New York socialite at the end of the first half of the 20th century, who did apparently have some musical talent early in life (playing the concert piano).  However, her concert piano playing days came to a tragic end due to a very, very, very bad first marriage.  What to do?  Well, she got it into her head that she could sing.  Could she?  Well, no.

BUT ... she was rich.  A second, significantly younger than she, (common law) husband St Clair Bayfield [wikip] (played with admirable heart / complexity by Hugh Grant), who himself was a "never going to be an A-list Broadway let alone Shakespearean stage actor," both _used her_ (she was RICH, remember) _and_, honestly, _protected her_ ... so that her she never really had to confront her limits / delusions.


This is a film that a 35 year old would only _begin_ to understand.

Great and amusingly irritating film.  Just remember folks, when your 75-80 year-old grandmother burns a cake do you tell her that "it sucked"? ;-)

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hell or High Water [2016]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB ()  ChicagoTribune (3 1/2 Stars) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (A-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
ChicagoTribune (M. Philips) review (P. Sobczynski) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review  

Hell or High Water [2016] (directed by David Mackenzie, screenplay by Taylor Sheridan) is a relatively straightforward "Western" if set in Texas of the very recent past:

Two brothers, "modern day desperados", Toby (played by Chris Pine) and Tanner (played by Ben Foster) go on a crime spree -- holding-up banks (rather than stage coaches) in sleepy little towns dotting the West Texas plains -- hightailing it out of said towns in get-away cars (rather than on horses).   They're doing so to "save the family farm" from unscrupulous bank lenders (rather than "the railroads" of yore).  Of course, two Texas Rangers (played by Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham) are sent out (from their bureau in Lubbuck, TX) to bring them to justice.  At one point, the two brothers even head-up to "Indian Country" (an Indian run casino up in Oklahoma) where they quite ingeniously launder their cash (again, not a ton of cash ... enough to ... well ... possibly "save that farm).

So do they succeed in "saving the farm"?   Should they (be allowed to succeed... by the film-makers)?  IMHO, _that's_ what this film is about.

Westerns are generally stark and it's _generally easy_ to see who's "wearing the white hats" and "who's wearing the dark ones."  This is a bit more complicated because the protagonists are clearly breaking the law.  And yet, we in the audience _understand why_.  Still, the law is the the law, right?  And stealing is not merely "against the law" ... it's against the (7th/8th) Commandment -- THOU SHALT NOT STEAL. 

So how is this supposed to end?  And how are the two Texas Rangers supposed to look at this?  Should they just hunt them down?  Should they "try to understand"?  But should it be even part of _their job description_ to "try to understand"?   After all, most criminals _do_ "have a story..."

Anyway, this is a very simple story that should leave the Viewer with a lot of uncomfortable questions.  Again, anyone with a heart would _understand_ BUT ...

Good job ;-)

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Sausage Party [2016]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O)  Fr. Dennis (0 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review

Sausage Party [2016] (directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, screenplay by Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, story by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Jonah Hill) is a film that I could not bring myself to spend money to see.

First, I'm honestly getting tired of the crudity.  I don't think of myself as a snob and have _generally_ enjoyed the Simpsons and even South Park over the years.  But I find myself getting tired of these after a while: Seriously, there's "more to this world" than puke, farts and dumb sexual jokes...

Then, I _don't like_ confusing _people_ with _things_.  I _don't mind_ personifying animals or even plants.  But I do find it _much more problematic_ when we start personifying cars, planes, and yes even _unduly_ personifying _toys_ (even though as kids we do use (play with) dolls / "action figures" as stand-ins for people).   But a car is _not_ a person.  A hotdog / hotdog bun _aren't_ people ...

And I am concerned that when we start thinking of "a car" as "a person just like you and me" we can start treating _people_ like _things_ as well.

Last week, I wrote exactly about this ... there was a scene in the DC Comics inspired film Suicide Squad [2016] where in preparation for evacuation a "tough as nails intelligence officer" ordered her four assistants to "wipe their hard drives (on their computers)" and as soon as they initiated that task, she proceeded _to shoot_ her four assistants each in the head (to presumably "wipe" _their_ own internal "hard drives" (brains  as well).

PEOPLE ARE NOT THINGS.  And when we start thinking of a _sausage_ / _sausage bun_ as "a person" we can start thinking of PEOPLE as mere "sausages" / "sausage buns" (to be consumed or even disposed of if we don't particularly like them...)

So even the film's crudity aside ... I DID NOT LIKE THE DIRECTION THAT THIS FILM WAS TAKING US.  We are OBJECTIFIED / COMMODIFIED ENOUGH AS IT IS ... we really _don't_ need to go further with that direction.

WE ARE NOT THINGS (and THINGS are not "just like us")

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Confused ... by Love [2015]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (2 3/4 Stars)

IMDb listing

Confused ... by Love [2015] (written and directed by Crosby Tatum) is a small, simple and at times quite poignant African American dramedy that played recently at the 2016 (22nd) Black Harvest Film Festival held at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago.

It's about two college educated late 20-early 30-something couples -- Ferguson and Tiffany Marie Middlebecker (played by Keith Mascol and Jamie Perez) and Reggie Maxwell and Joline 'Jo Jo' Thompson (played by Simba Dibinga and Jordon Lloyd) -- African American, who honestly had trouble believing that they were still (or possibly returning to) the straits that they were in.  All of them knew poverty, _real_ poverty, when they were growing-up.  And all of them believed that their college degrees would have lifted them out of it.  And yet to their horror, they were _all_ staring at failure and being thrown out _onto the street_ ... again.

Yes, no doubt. that pretty much all of them had made some bad decisions, some worse than others:

Ferguson a writer, _may_ have procrastinated with his current manuscript, perhaps blaming it too much on writers' block (though it does happen).

Tiffany Marie, his wife, who _had_ spent time as a child literally on the streets _homeless_, now a "radio personality" on some local radio station, had been something of a spendthrift (even as Furgeson was _not really writing_ ...)

Reggie saw himself as "an entrepreneur" and had been taking all kinds of chances "in the media business" -- movies, records, commercials, radio sound spots, whatever -- doing _anything_ to keep afloat and (perhaps) scrape ahead, including having stolen a story from Ferguson a few years back that he had converted into a successful credit on some film (without acknowledging that the idea had come from Ferguson).

Jo Jo was probably the most sensible of them all, but she had been Ferguson's girlfriend "back in college" before breaking-up for reasons unclear and ... was now returning into Ferguson's world ... by Reggie's side (who already wasn't necessarily in Ferguson's best graces because of the "stolen story" affair).

Yet now they all needed each other especially Ferguson and Tiffany Marie who stood to lose their house.

Again, this is a _very simple story_ ... but there is a _lot of pain_ and a _lot of painful truth_ being faced.  So while this is a film that will often make you laugh, it will also make you cry.

Honestly a pretty good job for a "small indie film" ;-)

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

All the Difference [2016]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
PBS POV program listing

Chicago Reader (L. Picket) interview w. director

All the Difference [2016] (directed by Tod Lending) is a documentary that followed two students who were among the first graduating class of the Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men operating in the Englewood neighborhood in Chicago through their years in college.  The film played recently at the 2016 (22nd) Black Harvest Film Festival held at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago and will play nationally on PBS' POV program in Sept 2016.

The documentary sought to explore what could be done to increase the chances of African American males of attaining college degrees.  Currently only 1/2 of African American males attain a high school diploma, only 1/2 of those who do choose to go onto college and only 16% of African American males actually finish a bachelor's degree in 4-6 years following high school graduation.

The strategy that Urban Prep seems to be taking is above all _raising expectations_ making going onto college the presumed goal of every single student attending their Academy.  Then the Academy provides a good deal of mentoring support and perhaps above all teaches their students to not be afraid _to ask for / seek out help_ when they they needed it.  

Both of the students followed -- Robert Henderson who went on to Lake Forest College a predominantly white. classically "small liberal arts college" in northern Illinois, and Krishaun Branch who chose to go to Fisk University a historically black university in Nashville, TN -- faced enormous challenges when they arrived at their respective college campuses for their freshmen years.  Robert had been raised by his grandmother after his mother had died in a car accident when he was 12.  Krishaun had flirted with gang activity before his mother put him in the Urban Prep Academy.  Both were from the Englewood neighborhood in Chicago, one of the toughest, most crime ridden neighborhoods in the city.  Yet Robert had come to Lake Forest College with good grades and great hopes that he could make it through its pre-Med program.  Krishaun with lesser grades had hoped to get a degree from Fisk and become a Federal Marshall.  Both came to their respective colleges depending _entirely_ on grants, work-study programs and student loans.  Their grants depended on maintaining reasonably high (or even very high) grade point averages.  They also came with the burdens of their entire families, community and even their former Prep School _counting on them_ to finish / succeed.

This last motivating force -- that all kinds of people, from their families, community to their former Prep School depending on them to succeed -- really could not be underestimated in helping them do so.  One of the two students followed in the documentary, Krishaun, attended the screening and _flatly admitted_ (to the knowing acknowledgement of the Audience) that he _really_ DIDN'T WANT to be "a failure" in this documentary or to his former school.  And honestly RAISING THE BAR like this -- making failure (by-and-large) _an unacceptable option_ -- MAY have made ALL THE DIFFERENCE to these young men.

Now the two were _not_ thrown simply "thrown to the wolves."  They were prepared quite well in their Prep School.  They graduated with legitimately good grades, were taught skills, study habits, and above all _the importance to ask_ when they needed help -- be it with school work OR with working out finances.  But the Academy's "raising the bar" and making "easy failure" _unacceptable_ (despite the self-evident challenges) SEEMED TO WORK.

In any case, this is definitely a worthwhile documentary for _all people_ interested in helping young people (especially young people at risk) to succeed and ought to promote good discussions among parents, educators, community leaders and even / above all among _young people themselves_ about the tools and skills that our young people need to learn / come-to-have-access-to in order to do so.

An excellent thought / discussion producing piece!

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Indignation [2016]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (L)  ChicagoTribune (3 1/2 Stars) (4 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (E. Zuckerman) review  

Indignation [2016] (screenplay and directed by James Schamus based on the novel [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Phillip Roth [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is an appropriately R-rated movie that along with Walter Sellas' still recent cinematic adaptation (2012) of Jack Kerouac's celebrated "beat generation" novel On the Road (1951-57) could help Viewers, both young (in their 20s) and of my 50-something age, better understand how we got, culturally, from the post-WW II Era to the Present Day.   For this film presents an American college experience, that while certainly believable would seem almost "of another world" to most Viewers today:

The story, set in 1951 (a year into the Korean War), centers on Marcus Messner (played by Logan Lerman) a butcher's son, Jewish, from Newark, NJ, and the _first of his family_ to be able to go (on scholarship) to College.   Now there's _so much_ in that sentence that seems distant from the present day.  Yet in talking to one of our older (though still movie going) friars, he could relate.  That is because he too grew-up in a _then_ mixed (Irish, Italian and Jewish) _blue-collar_ neighborhood (in his case on Chicago's West Side near our Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows) that with the exception of faint echoes of said distant past -- the (Italian) Shrine to Our Lady of Pompei as well as at least the legacy of the hustle and bustle of the once legendary Maxwell Street -- is as "lost to time" as the (heavily Jewish) Newark neighborhood recalled in Roth's novel / this film. 

Then a good part of Marcus' "indignation" in the current film / story centered on the requirement (still at the time) of attending a once every 2 weeks "Chapel Service" at the (Ohio) Liberal Arts College where he was attending where one or another of the College's professors would give an already quite watered-down non/interdenominational lecture on "civics" / "ethics."  Marcus, Jewish by ethnicity, atheist by conviction, found these still _mandatory_ lectures both offensive and a waste of time.  Other Jewish students at the school (there was already a Jewish fraternity at the school at the time) found creative ways to ditch said lectures while still being counted at attending them.  But Marcus was uncomfortable with these methods of going around said rule.  Instead, he objected to -- and clashed with the College's Dean (played very well in the film by Tracy Letts) over -- the rule itself.

Finally, Marcus got confused (and on multiple levels) by a similarly misfitting student named Olivia Hutton (played by Sarah Gadon) from a very WASPy if divorcing family from relatively nearby Cleveland, OH, who on their first date surprised him by, well ..., "blowing" him.  In 1951, that would surprise most people ;-).  Marcus comes to explain for himself (and perhaps even correctly) her apparent impetuosity (it also becomes revealed by a scar on her wrist that she had previously tried committing suicide...) on her parents' divorcing.  But the _larger question_ was perhaps why would her parents have divorced in the first place.  And indeed the question of divorce comes home to Marcus' family as well, as Marcus' mom (played very well by Linda Emond) seriously contemplates at one point (and for the first time) leaving Marcus' dad (played again superbly by Danny Burstein) for a tragic (if fascinating discussion-producing) mix of both outward anxiety (_not_ being "quite enough of a man" in/to the outside world) and inward / at-home abusiveness (trying "to compensate" for this at home). 

And over the whole story loomed the Korean Conflict and the larger Cold War.  Would Marcus' precious "indignation" over being _forced_ to go to "chapel services" that he _didn't want to go to_ become so great that it would cast him out of the school and thus into the Service and off to Korea?  On the flip side, should mere (youthful?) stubbornness over "not wanting to go to chapel" be just reason to send someone arguably to his / her death? 

The story arguably becomes its own metaphor:  Everything in this film seemed to be slow moving and even so trivial ("Okay, you have to go to 'chapel services' ... once every two weeks ... so what?") and yet as Olivia herself intimates to Marcus at one point, everything's also _about to explode_ (she tells him that she has "8000 emotions running through her head every second").

About to explode indeed ... excellent / thought-provoking film!

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Monday, August 8, 2016

Les Cowboys [2015]

MPAA (R)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* (C. Renou-Nativel) review* review* (PHL) review* (J. Godinot) review* (M. Pokée) review* (I. Navarro) review*
Cine Para Leer (F.M. Benevent) review*
Slant Magazine (S. MacFarlane) review
Way Too Indie (C.J. Prince) review

Les Cowboys [2015] [IMDb] []* (directed by Thomas Bidegain [IMDb] []*, screenplay by Thomas Bidegain [IMDb] []* and Noé Debré [IMDb] []*, original idea by Thomas Bidegain [IMDb] []* and Laurent Abitbol [IMDb]) is a thoughtful indie-style piece about a quite random French family "from the Provinces" (from somewhere in rural south-western France at the foothills of the Alps) whose parents, the father Alain especially (played wonderfully / poignantly  throughout by François Damiens [IMDb] []*) just happened to have a thing for American country western music and its lifestyle.  The film _closed_ the recent 2016 Chicago French Film Festival organized annually by the French Diplomatic Mission to the United States and held since its beginning at the Music Box Theater on Chicago's North Side. 

 Now it may seem somewhat surprising that a film about "a quite random French family from the countryside that happened to have a thing for American country music / its lifestyle" could then be characterized as _thoughtful_ / _poignant_.  My comment here is not intended to be a "knock" of American CW music (I like / love American CW music and have a Czech nephew back in Prague who's an enormous fan of the "tremp" lifestyle).  I just wish to note here that the "random French family from the countryside's" taste here is an _interesting_ and even _poignant_ FLOURISH that informs the rest of the story.  But THE STORY _very quickly_ and _radically_ GOES ELSEWHERE.

For we are introduced to Alain and his family -- wife Nicole (played by Agathe Dronne [IMDb] []*, 16 y.o. daughter Kelly (played by Iliana Zabeth [IMDb] []*) and son Kid (played as a 13 year old by Maxim Driesen [IMDb] []* and later by Finnegan Oldfield [IMDb] []*) -- beginning a random late summer / early autumn day (in apparently 1994) coming to a lakeside Country Western jamboree being held somewhere in the foothills of the Alps.  They're all dressed in cowboy hats and otherwise Western garb.  They spend the day eating barbecue, watching a few carnival style rodeo events, dancing to CW music -- Alain, even straps on a guitar at one point and plays a poignant CW song "Tennessee Waltz" on stage -- and ... at the end of the day, Alain's wife Nicole starts asking "has anyone seen Kelly?" 

What happened to Kelly?  Well, sometime during that seemingly innocuous / random "family outing" SHE _ditched the family_ and ... ran-off with her boyfriend named Ahmed (about whom neither Alain nor Nicole had even known about).  They find-out about him only in the hours / day that follow(s), as they start going through Kelly's stuff at home, in preparation to going to the police ...

And the two (Ahmed is apparently 18) simply vanish ... Not even Ahmed's parents (played by Djemel Barek [IMDb] []* and Leila Saadali [IMDb] []*) know where they disappeared to though they fear the worst ... Ahmed, his dad (who ran a random automechanics' garage at the edge of town) confesses, appeared to have had some radical Muslim tendencies (tendencies that he / the rest of the family disagreed with).  But now the two -- Ahmed and Kelly -- were gone and Ahmed's own parents tell Alain and his then 13 year old son that they honestly could have disappeared to anywhere.

THE REST OF THE FILM IS ABOUT ALAIN and his SON "KID" (who as the film progresses, grows-up) LOOKING for Kelly and Ahmed ... in Antwerp, in Berlin, in Yemen, back in Marsailles, even, by then early 20-something "Kid" as a young "volunteer doctor" for Doctors without Borders, post-9/11, in Pakistan.

And as the years go by, life / history, both big and small, goes on" -- "stuff", important "stuff" happens, of course, in Alain's own family as does other important "stuff" in the world as well (notably 9/11 as well as the subsequent Madrid and London bombings). 

Through it all, Kelly's mom, Nicole, gets _occasional_ word (a letter every couple of years, postmarked from truly random locations) from her daughter ... informing her of events in Kelly's life (now with a random Muslim name), notably that Kelly's come to have a number of children of her own (by Ahmed), but obviously these children would never know their French grandparents.  Kelly, for her part, never got word of ANYTHING that's happened to her birth family ... because, well, she never left an address in her letters, and the very occasional letters were again seemingly sent from random cities / countries across Europe / the Middle East.  (Ahmed's father notes at one point that "at least your daughter writes ... we haven't heard _anything_ from our son since he left us"). 

How does it end?  I'm not going to say ... but the film becomes a contemporary French update of the classic American "Western" The Searchers [1956] [wikip] [IMDb].  As such it makes for an excellent if often quite sad / poignant (and _perhaps_ very French ...) story ...

 * Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser. 

** To load Websites from South, East and Eurasia in a timely fashion, installation of ad-blocking software is often required.

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Friday, August 5, 2016

Suicide Squad [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (L)  ChicagoTribune (1 1/2 Stars) (1 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (1 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review  

Blame it on a number of things -- a continued attempt at "brand differentiation" with DC Comics [wikip] [DC] (owned now by Warner Bros. which is owned in turn by Time Warner, Inc) trying _really hard_ to be(come) "the bad boys" of the Comic Book universe with certainly _a darker vision_ of the world than more "boy scout-ish," "socially redeeming/redeemable" vision of rival Marvel Comics [wikip] [MC] (now owned by Disney); and then a cinematic roll-out of a vast number of DC Comics characters, some of whom will almost certainly have their own spin-off movies in the coming years -- but Suicide Squad [2016] (screenplay and directed by David Ayer) by almost all accounts (see the reviews above) comes across as "a mess."

I'd also add the warning to Parents: While rated PG-13 (and many of you _may_ appreciate this because you won't have to sit through this often dark film with your teens as a result), there are aspects of this film that really deserve an R-rating.  So definitely _don't_ take your little kids to this film and even talk to your teens about the film afterwards.  The film's cynicism warrants airing / discussion.

The story presented continues the exploration of a preoccupation articulated in the DC Comics inspired film released earlier this year, Batman v. Superman [2016]: Even if humanity proved "lucky" with Superman (who had used his superpowers to defend humanity), how could humanity defend itself against "Super beings" who proved not nearly as nice?

The "contingency plan" offered in this film by a _really tough_ Special Forces "suit" / commander named Amanda Waller [DC] [IMDb] (played by Viola Davis) to her reluctant superiors at the Pentagon was the assembly a (DC Comic book) "Dirty Dozen"-like unit of terrestrial (arguably) super-villains who, having done her homework (to identify each this unit's member's "pressure points" / potential "weaknesses") Cmdr Waller was confident could be "controlled" and hence "guided"/"formed" into a "world class" Bad-A.. [TM] special forces military unit like _truly no other_.

Her recruits:

Deadshot [DC] [IMDb] (played by Will Smith) the most accurate hit-man alive ... but one who could be controlled by both threatening / rewarding his cute as a button daughter Zoe [IMDb] (played by Shailyn Pierre-Dixon);

Harley Quinn [DC] [IMDb] (played by Margot Robbie) the now utterly psychotic (hence merciless  / remorseless) girlfriend of The Joker [DC] [IMDb] (played in this film by Jared Leto).  They had met when The Joker had been in prison and she, as Dr. Harleen Quinzel, had been his prison psychologist.  However, his insanity proved stronger than her capability and rather than changing him for the better, she fell in love with him and well, now they have the most crazy, obsessive relationship this side (or any side) of reality.  Her attachment to The Joker appears to be _her_ weakness that Cmdr Waller believed that she could use manipulate to her advantage; 

The Enchantress [DC] [IMDb], a 10,000 year old witch whose spirit archeologist June Moone [DC] [IMDb] (played by Cara Delevingne) accidentally released after coming across an idol in which it was trapped.  Now the Enchantress resides in June Moone's body and periodically posesses her.  How to control her?  The Enchantress craves her own heart which had been contained in a separate urn from the idol which had held her spirit.  Cmdr Waller now carries around The Enchantress' heart in a special "nuke-football"-style briefcase which she uses to extract demands of The Enchantress.

Diablo [DC] [IMDb] (played by Jay Hernandez) a tormented former inner-city gangbanger who was born with the ability to ignite things at will when he loses control / gets angry.   He'd actually prefer to be calm, but can pushed into losing his control.

Killer Croc [DC] [IMDb] (played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) again tormented by a genetic mutation that makes his skin scaly like that of a reptile, he's spent most of his life away from humans preferring the sewers where his inner rage as risen to match the strength of his already reptilian physical qualities.

Katana [DC] [IMDb] (played by Karen Fukuhara) a grieving / angry Japanese martial arts expert / vigilante whose slain husband's soul (along with countless others) is trapped in her samurai sword.

and Capt. Rick Flag [DC] [IMDb] (played by Joel Kinnaman) a gung-ho / patriotic second generation U.S. special forces guy tasked by Cmdr Waller to lead this very unique unit.

Now this unit was created to offer the Pentagon a means to respond to "Super-Villain threats."  It turns out, unsurprisingly, that such a unit proves "hard to control" and ... (unsurprisingly) one of this unit's members "goes rogue."  The rest of the story follows ...

Setup this way, the film is actually not altogether bad, but as is typical of DC Comics' stories, this one is quite dark, darker certainly than most Marvel Comics' stories.

There's a scene in particular that ought to disturb viewers in which Cmdr Waller has to evacuate her standing HQ and is told to "wipe the hard drives" of the computers present.  After her assistants presumably initiate the wiping sequences, SHE PROCEEDS TO QUICKLY SHOOT (in the head) ALL HER ASSISTANTS AS WELL.  It's one way to "scrub clean" / "kill knowledge" of a super secret project BUT ... AND ... remember THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A PG-13 MOVIE (!!)

As a result of scenes like this, one's left with a pretty disturbing film that _ought_ to leave a lot of viewers reeling.

So Parents don't let this film go without discussion: Teens would you really want to be involved with a project _so secret_ that your Commander could _shoot you_ for simply having been part of it?  

This has got to be the craziest portrayal of a "National Security State" gone amuck ...

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Nerve [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (2 1/2 Stars) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (K. Walsh) review (O. Henderson) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review  

Nerve [2016] (directed by  and screenplay by based on the novel [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Jeanne Ryan [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is a VERY WELL CRAFTED truly _teen oriented_ "PG-13" film that PARENTS should at least know about BUT one whose makers knew their responsibilities quite well... and hence kept the film within PG-13 boundaries and even told the story in a way that will probably more convincingly scare teens into being much more careful about their online habits than any amount of well-meaning talks from concerned parents / teachers ever could.

The film's about an online game called "Nerve" (the name of the film as well as the book on which it is based) which could be described as the recent Pokémon Go phenomenon's very even extremely Evil Twin.  Basically, the Game's online participants are divided into two groups: "The Players" and "The Watchers."  The Watchers have to pay (nominal though presumably increasing fees) to "watch" The Players "play", while The Players are dared to do increasingly crazy tasks by some kind of online artificially intelligent "Hive Brain", while of course video-streaming themselves (with their cellphones) doing them. 

These "tasks" would be tailored for each Player by the "Hive Brain" (an open-source computer program) based on the suggestions of The Watchers as well as _everything_ that this "hive brain" could collect about the various individual Players from other Social Media / the Internet.   For tasks completed, the Players would get money direct deposited into their (already existing ... ) bank accounts linked to them, hence a level of creepiness _from the very beginning_ as the "Hive Brain" would search-out _each Player's financial information_ in order to "kindly make (said) direct deposits" for them as their participation in The Game progresses.

So the story centers around a somewhat nerdy (photog for the yearbook) NYC (Staten Island) high school senior named Vee (played very, very well by Emma Roberts, she's a natural for these kind of roles) whose cheer-leading BFF Sydney (played again quite well by Emily Meade) begins the film already as "a Player" in the game (and who encourages Vee to at least signup as "a Watcher" (so that she, Sydney, could get more fans).

Well, after being quite accidentally embarrassed by Sydney after school one afternoon, she decides to join said Game ... as a Player not watcher.  And soon she gets her first task -- kiss a complete stranger for 5 seconds (with 30 minutes to complete said task).  What to do?  Vee calls Sydney's similarly nerdy brother Tommy (played similarly quite wonderfully by Miles Hiezer) who naturally has an enormous if unrequited crush on Vee ... and asks him to drive and accompany her to a local teen hangout to find some random guy to kiss.  There looking around and sizing up the prospects, they decide on an innocuous looking guy (played by Dave Franco) who's sitting alone in a booth.  As Vee approaches him, she notices that he seems to be with a rather odd book for a guy to be reading Virginia Woolf's [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] novel To The Lighthouse [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] which actually gives her an ice-breaker: "Hey that's my favorite book! (how odd that you'd be reading it...)."  Well, anyway, she plants a kiss on him.  Poor Tommy dutifully records said kiss on her cell phone and ... she's informed "Task completed, $100 will be deposited into your bank account."  And her number of "Watchers" shoots up to over 100. 

It turns out that "the guy", who's name is Ian, was there, of course, because of The Game as well.  And he has the task of "serenading a random woman" with a really corny song, which he does of course for Vee.  And soon both are given tasks of (1) "take a random woman into the city" and (2) "go with the guy you kissed into the city."  Perhaps a little uneasy, but with adrenaline flowing Vee consents to hop on Ian's motorbike and by way of Jersey and presumably the George Washington Bridge, soon they're in Manhattan and ... the rest of the film unspools from there.  

As the evening / night progress the two are given increasingly challenging / corny and ... FRANKLY DANGEROUS tasks.  They complete them one-by-one, increasing both their cash earnings as well as their number of Watchers ... which inevitably comes to piss-off  Sydney who believed herself to be "the cool one" in her friendship with Vee. 

Now Parents reading this, if you'd be concerned that this film would encourage your teens to become recklessly infatuated with some cyber game like this ... I _don't_ think you'd really have to worry about this ;-).   Indeed, I'd actually encourage you to have your teens go see the film (with you or without you).  Why?  Because I do believe that this film really "speaks teen" ;-) ... After a while, the stunts being asked of "The Players" in this game are so _self-evidently_ dangerous that most teens would go "OMG there is _no way_ that I'd ever do this!  The people who invented this game _should all go to jail_, etc."  And Parents, you could then "just smile" ;-) ... THIS IS ONE TIME THAT HOLLYWOOD DID YOUR JOB ;-) ;-)

Honestly, it's a wonderful film and could serve as a _ very good_ means for talking to your kids about "internet safety" (including _financial safety_) in a way that perhaps would have been hard to do otherwise.  Honestly, EXCELLENT JOB!

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Brand New Testament (orig. Le tout nouveau testament) [2015]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* (A. Champilou) review* (A. Schwartz) review* (E. Martín Luna) review* (V. Staňková) review* (L. Shaw) review

The Brand New Testament (orig. Le tout nouveau testament) [2015] [IMdb] []*(directed and cowritten by Jaco Van Dormael [IMdb] []* along with Thomas Gunzig [IMdb] []*), while certainly _not_ "for everybody" is a quite imaginative BELGIAN, FRENCH and LUXEMBOURGER religious themed comedy that helped open the 2016 Chicago French Film Festival organized annually by the French Diplomatic Mission to the United States and held since its beginning at the Music Box Theater on Chicago's North Side.  The film also earned a 2016 U.S. Golden Globes nomination for Best Foreign Language Motion Picture.

Basically, the film takes as its starting point the verses in the first chapter of Genesis: "Then let us make human beings in our likeness ... God created man in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them" [Gen 1:26-27] and then continues to imagine that God _and his family_  live "up in the sky" _as a typical Belgian family_ in a random apartment in one of the upper floors of a nondescript (and not particularly attractive) 20+ story tenement building somewhere at the outskirts of Brussels.

"God and his Family...", what pray-tell do you mean?   Oh yes, there's a family. There's the Father (played by Benoît Poelvoorde [IMDb] []*) a typical, and starting to bald, Belgian male in his perhaps early 50s.  He has a Wife (played by Yolande Moreau [IMDb] []*) who we "down on earth" _don't really know_ as she's "up there" in the Family of God's random tenement apartment mostly "tending/cleaning house" ;-).   Of course, there's The Son, J.C., (we _know Jesus_, played here quite sympathetically by David Murgia [IMDb]).  And finally there's God's 12-year old Daughter named Ea (played by Pili Groyne [IMDb] []*) who we, again, _don't really know_ 'cause as a typical Belgian family "all the attention's been given to the Son" ;-).   Ea's the one telling this story ... ;-)

We're told that God the Father created the world that we know over the course of seven evenings, when, "each night, after dinner" (cooked of course by Ma') "would tinker with such things" (as "Creating the World") on his computer, with a few (Belgian) beers at his side.  The "beers at his side" actually kinda help explain the creation of animals like Ostriches, Giraffes and Hippopotamuses which aesthetically do seem to make more sense "after a beer or two" ;-). 

But God the Father's drinking and general "Belgian style crankiness" helps explain a lot of the problems in the world, and so, "eyes rolling" almost-teenage Ea decides finally to "go down to earth" and fix some of the messes that Dad "drinking beers at his computer" seems to be causing. 

Here nice, smiling if somewhat clueless brother J.C. has some advice for Ea: "You know, when you go down to Earth, don't go as I did to recruit twelve Apostles.  I thought twelve would be a good number.  But most of them didn't really do much anyway.  You could probably get by with six. ;-) ... Then, when you ask them to write your Gospels, don't have them focus much on you or us.  Focusing on us is kinda pointless, they won't listen / learn from our example anyway.  Have them focus on their own stories and find what they need to do to get by."  

So Ea finds her way down to earth, finds her six, quite random (and often quite problematic) Apostles certainly with their own "demons" / "stories" and the rest of the story ensues ...

Again Dear Readers from the description above, it should be pretty clear that this film would _not_ be "for everybody."  But it _does_ have its moments.  I did find it amusing that God would have created "Giraffes" over a couple of beers ;-) or that Jesus would be telling "his sister" to not bother with looking for 12 Apostles as "most of them didn't do much anyway" ;-) that she could "get by with six" ;-)  

So ... while not necessarily a "must see," the film would certainly "amuse a few" ;-).  I got a kick out of it, but then, of course, I'm _not_ taking it "as Gospel."  I just liked some of the little jokes / "insights" ;-).   

 * Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser. 

** To load Websites from South, East and Eurasia in a timely fashion, installation of ad-blocking software is often required.

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>