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Ghost In The Shell Review

Very Good

This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as The Matrix or Blade Runner, two films it resembles in various ways, even if it lacks their resonance. Director Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) pulls out all the stops, expertly deploying an eclectic cast and a continual stream of eye-popping visual effects. This helps make up for the surprisingly thin approach to the story's deeper themes.

It's set in near-future Japan, where Major (Scarlett Johansson) has her brain transplanted into a robotic body after an accident. Weaponised by the Hanka corporate boss Cutter (Peter Ferdinando), she is assigned to work undercover with local police chief Aramaki ('Beat' Takeshi Kitano) and a team that includes muscly sidekick Batou (Pilou Asbaek) and reparative Dr Ouelet (Juliette Binoche). Major's current case has her on a collision course with a mastermind terrorist named Kuze (Michael Carmen Pitt), who is attacking Hanka executives one by one. As she tracks him down, she is noticing strange glitches in her programming, little visions of what might be her past. But these are oddly unrelated to her memories, which makes her wonder who she really was before she became a machine.

The script makes it painfully clear that the title refers to Major's soul in her mechanical body, as if it needed explaining. And there are other elements of the dialog that seem dumbed down for the mainstream, including the way the film sidesteps the big questions it raises about free will, militarised culture and corporate greed. By neglecting these elements of the story, the film wows our eyes and tantalises our emotions, but never gets under our skin. Johansson is terrific at these sort of roles (see also Lucy), and her expressive eyes bring some moving subtext to her scenes with Binoche and Pitt. Meanwhile, Kitano nearly steals the show as the cool old-school master.

Continue reading: Ghost In The Shell Review

Ghost In The Shell Trailer


The Major is the leader of a specialist armed forces unit called Section 9; the Major and her team deal with specialist cyber terrorist attacks. The reason why the Major is such an effective leader and fighter is she's not entirely human. She was saved by a group of specialist doctors who work at a lab which is part of the Hanka group. The Major can withstand huge amounts of damage to her body 'shell' but that doesn't mean that she's completely invulnerable - if she pushes herself too far, she will eventually die. Her own mortality doesn't stop The Major from testing her limits.

The Major finds herself involved in what could be a huge cover-up; so big, most might presume it attested to nothing more than unproven conspiracy. Treading a line of fact and manipulated reality, The Major and her team must find a way to uncover the truth behind dangerous hacks.

The 2017 movie 'Ghost in the Shell' is based on the manga series of the same name. Whilst in the movie the lead character is known predominantly by the name 'The Major', in the original stories, she was called Motoko Kusanagi.

Continue: Ghost In The Shell Trailer

Juliette Binoche - Paris Fashion Week - Emporio Armani - Arrivals - Paris, France - Tuesday 7th July 2015

Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche

Juliette Binoche - 65th Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) - 'Nobody Wants the Night' - Arrivals at Berlinale Palast - Berlin, Germany - Thursday 5th February 2015

Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche

Juliette Binoche - 65th Berlinale International Film Festival - 'Nobody Wants the Night' (Nadie quiere la noche) - Premiere and Opening Ceremony at Berlinalepalast - Berlin, Germany - Thursday 5th February 2015

Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche

Juliette Binoche - 65th Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) - 'Nobody Wants the Night' - Photocall at Hotel Hyatt - Berlin, Germany - Thursday 5th February 2015

Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Isabel Coixet, Juliette Binoche and Berlin
Isabel Coixet, Juliette Binoche and Berlin

Juliette Binoche - Juliette Binoche out and about in New York City - New York City, New York, United States - Thursday 9th October 2014

Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche

Juliette Binoche and Olivier Assayas - Toronto International Film Festival - Opening Night - London, United Kingdom - Friday 5th September 2014

Juliette Binoche and Olivier Assayas
Juliette Binoche and Olivier Assayas
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche

Kristen Stewart and Juliette Binoche - The 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival - 'Clouds of Sils Maria' - Premiere - Outside Arrivals - Cannes, France - Saturday 24th May 2014

Kristen Stewart and Juliette Binoche

Kristen Stewart (r) and Juliette Binoche - The 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival - Clouds Of Sils Maria - Premiere - Cannes, France - Friday 23rd May 2014

Kristen Stewart (r) and Juliette Binoche
Kristen Stewart (l-r), Juliette Binoche and Chloe Grace Moretz And
Kristen Stewart (l) and Juliette Binoche
Kristen Stewart (l-r), Juliette Binoche and Chloe Grace Moretz And
Kristen Stewart (r) and Juliette Binoche
Kristen Stewart (r) and Juliette Binoche

Chloe Grace Moretz (r) and Juliette Binoche - The 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival - Sils Maria - Photocall - London, United Kingdom - Friday 23rd May 2014

Chloe Grace Moretz (r) and Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche

'Godzilla' Is More Growling Than Roaring Success, But Still... [Trailer]


Bryan Cranston Aaron Johnson Gareth Edwards Juliette Binoche Ken Watanabe Sally Hawkins

It's going to be a big weekend for Godzilla: the monster action reboot has been teasing its entrance for months with irresistibly gloomy and stylised posters and trailers, whetting our appetite for an early summer movie with brains and bite. If that wasn't enough, the film has been earned a strong base of enthusiastic (but realistic) reviews that are sure to convince the more reluctant moviegoer that Gareth Edwards retake of the well-trodden tale is worth parting with cash for.

Godzilla Bryan Cranston Aaron Taylor Johnson
Bryan Cranston & Aaron Taylor-Johnson Play Father-Son Duo Joe & Ford Brody In 'Godzilla.'

Still burned by the memory of Roland Emmerich's 1998 disaster of a disaster movie, many fans and critics didn't have particularly high hopes for a reboot even 15 years later. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor-Johnson take centre stage as father-son duo Joe and Ford Brody who find themselves up against not Godzilla but some weird spider-dino hybrids called MUTO in this super smashy-smashy flick.

Continue reading: 'Godzilla' Is More Growling Than Roaring Success, But Still... [Trailer]

Kristen Stewart Turns 24, As Attention Turns To 'Clouds Of Sils Maria'


Kristen Stewart Juliette Binoche Chloe Moretz

Kristen Stewart has turned 24 today (April 9, 2014) and the actress has a pretty big year ahead as she continues her post-Twilight movie career with a number of a hard-hitting dramas, including Clouds of Sils Maria.

Kristen StewartKristen Stewart Stars in 'Clouds of Sils Maria'

The movie directed by Olivier Assayas follows successful actress Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) and her loyal assistant Valentine (Stewart). When a young actress (Chloe Moretz) interprets a role in a new movie - the same role that made Enders famous - her world begins to crumble and she and her assistant withdraw to the Swiss town of Sils Maria.

Continue reading: Kristen Stewart Turns 24, As Attention Turns To 'Clouds Of Sils Maria'

Godzilla Causes Tsunamis, Rampages Through Cities, Destroys Armies In Extended Look [Trailer & Pictures]


Bryan Cranston Aaron Johnson Elizabeth Olsen Juliette Binoche Ken Watanabe Sally Hawkins Matthew Broderick

The extended trailer for Godzilla has been released and shows the large lizard at his very worst: causing Tsunamis, destroying cities and taking on the US armed forces.

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor Johnson
Bryan Cranston (L) and Aaron Taylor Johnson (R) star as father and son in Godzilla.

Advertised by Legendary pictures as "An epic rebirth to Toho's iconic Godzilla, this spectacular adventure pits the world's most famous monster against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity's scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence." This upcoming movie appears to be less tongue-in-cheek than the 1998 version starring Matthew Broderick but certainly boasts a larger budget and more terrifying creature as the central focus of this action movie. 

Continue reading: Godzilla Causes Tsunamis, Rampages Through Cities, Destroys Armies In Extended Look [Trailer & Pictures]

Post-Breakup Kristen Stewart Bags Two Lead Roles


Kristen Stewart Robert Pattinson Chloe Moretz Juliette Binoche

Kristen Stewart, star of the Twilight franchise, has landed herself lead roles in political drama Camp X-Ray, and Swiss-set Sils Maria.

The 23 year-old actress, best known for her lead role as Bella Swan in the recently-ended Twilight saga, has been confirmed for the two indie films, set to shoot back-to-back this summer, according to deadline.com.

After reportedly having split in May from on-off boyfriend and fellow Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson, who she met on the set of the first Twilight movie in 2008, it seems K-Stew is keeping her mind off the split by staying busy with new projects.

Continue reading: Post-Breakup Kristen Stewart Bags Two Lead Roles

Juliette Binoche, Another Womans Life and The French Film Festival - Juliette Binoche attends a screening of 'Another Womans Life' as part of The French Film Festival at the IFI Saturday 24th November 2012 Featuring: Juliette Binoche Where: Dublin, Ireland

Juliette Binoche, Another Womans Life and The French Film Festival
Juliette Binoche, Another Womans Life and The French Film Festival
Juliette Binoche, Another Womans Life and The French Film Festival
Juliette Binoche, Another Womans Life and The French Film Festival

Juliette Binoche and Cannes Film Festival

Juliette Binoche and Cannes Film Festival

Cosmopolis Trailer


As he is transported in his lavish stretched limousine across Manhattan to get a haircut, self-centred billionaire Eric Packer's day soon collapses into meltdown as a visit from the President of the United States spurs a series of chaotic riots and groups of people protesting against the country's political future. Eric watches powerlessly the demolition of everything he holds dear and him and his associates begin to find clues amongst the disturbances that lead him to one chilling truth; his impending assassination. Will Eric manage to save his empire from total destruction, or will it drive him to the brink of madness?

Based on the novel of the same name by Don De Lillo, this action packed drama film is a frenzied mix of violence, politics, sex and money that will have you clutching on to the edge of your seat. Directed by David Cronenberg, the talented director of 'The Fly', 'Dead Ringers', 'A History of Violence' and 'A Dangerous Method', this fantastic motion picture has been selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.

Starring breakthrough 'Twilight' heartthrob Robert Pattinson as Eric Packer, 'Cosmopolis' is set to be released in the UK on June 15th 2012.


Directed by: David Cronenberg

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Jay Baruchel, Kevin Durand, Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gadon, Mathieu Amalric, Emily Hampshire and Patricia McKenzie

Certified Copy [copie Conforme] Review


Excellent
Like Before Sunrise, this film follows two people as they roam through a setting that's foreign to both of them. But since this is an Italian-French film by an Iranian filmmaker, it's also oddly playful and provocative.

In Tuscany, author James Miller (Shimell) finds that his latest book, Certified Copy, is more acclaimed in Italy than back home in England. A fan, Elle (Binoche), buys the book to her friends while her son (Moore) teases her that she's in love with the author. In her shop full of antiques (and copies), she meets James and the two head off for a day of visiting museums and roaming through an Italian village. And as they talk, they invent their own history as a couple.

Continue reading: Certified Copy [copie Conforme] Review

Certified Copy Trailer


Certified Copy is set in the picturesque surroundings of Tuscany. When a lady who owns an art gallery attends a lecture by renowned English writer James Miller on the value of original art compared to that of a copy we are lead to believe she immediately feels a connection with the speaker. When the pair meet up after his talk they decide to go on a trip around the city and into the countryside visiting some remarkable places.

Continue: Certified Copy Trailer

Juliette Binoche Saturday 15th May 2010 2010 Cannes International Film Festival - Day 12 - Palme d'Or Closing Ceremony Red Carpet Arrivals Cannes, France

Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche

Juliette Binoche Saturday 15th May 2010 2010 Cannes International Film Festival - Day 12 - Palme d'Or Award Photocall Cannes, France

Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche

Juliette Binoche - Tuesday 18th May 2010 at Cannes Film Festival Cannes, France

Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche

Juliette Binoche - Friday 16th May 2008 at Cannes Film Festival Cannes, France

Juliette Binoche

Summer Hours Review


Excellent
Summer Hours, the extraordinary new film by Olivier Assayas, opens on a group of kids, running and laughing around the front lawn of their grandmother's bucolic countryside manor. Their game is aimless, incorporating elements of tag and the use of a map drawn in invisible ink. Up at the house, three siblings, the parents of the brood, aimlessly wander around as the maid prepares a late lunch for them. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The silver-haired matriarch of this subdued clan -- the antithesis of the tribe of lunatics in A Christmas Tale -- is Hélène (Edith Scob), a one-time art-world staple. Her three children are just about as different as three siblings can be: There's flighty Adrienne (Juliette Binoche), a designer of sorts living in New York; young and ambitious Jérémie (Jérémie Renier), who works for Puma Sneakers in Peking; and nostalgic Frédéric (Charles Berling), the eldest, an economist who doesn't believe in economics. Sentimentalist and stubborn nationalist that he is, Frédéric laughs his mother off when she tells him he will have to sell the house when she dies, insisting the house will stay in the family.

Continue reading: Summer Hours Review

Flight Of The Red Balloon Review


Extraordinary
Paris (and France in general) tends to be a habitat seen in big sweeps and large outside shots, attesting to the ongoing American romanticizing of the City of Light. The Eiffel Tower looming large in the background, the stoic Arc de Triomphe, the rolling lawns in front of the Basilique du Sacre Coeur: However intimate the city's candor might be, film has always taken Paris in with its monuments, landmarks, and open spaces as pieces of a collective familiarity.

With the exception of a lone, beautiful coda within the Musee d'Orsay, the very body responsible for the film's funding, Hou Hsiao-hsien's gorgeous Flight of the Red Balloon drifts away from these environs, making a film about Paris life that seems uninterested in Paris as a city. Based on, or perhaps just familiarized with, Albert Lamorisse's French children's classic The Red Balloon, Hsiao-hsien moves the focus from a child and his balloon to a child, his frazzled mom, and his new Chinese nanny, a young filmmaker on a student visa.

Continue reading: Flight Of The Red Balloon Review

Dan In Real Life Review


Very Good
It has been a while since I've seen an actor single-handedly elevate merely fair material with a transcendental performance.

Steve Carell is the Dan of Real Life, and his touching turn as an unassuming newspaper columnist and father of three girls exists on a level above the film's perfectly acceptable cast -- no small feat considering that Dianne Wiest, John Mahoney, and Juliette Binoche contribute to the ensemble.

Continue reading: Dan In Real Life Review

A Few Days In September Review


Bad
Lots of bad things seem to happen in a matter of "days" in the month of September. It took Four Days in September for Alan Arkin's kidnapping drama to unfold, but only One Day for the Munich Olympic hostage catastrophe to pan out. 9/11 would be the backdrop for 7 Days in September. 9/11 is the subjext again here, but director Santiago Amigorena must have sensed that primary numbers were getting scarce, saddling his film with the awful title A Few Days in September. You know, give or take.

The title isn't all that's awful about this film, a mess of a story that wants desperately to be an espionage thriller. The tale centers around a missing spy named Elliot. On the hunt for him is Irène (Juliette Binoche, perhaps never more out of character) and two of Elliot's kids, American David (Tom Riley) and French Orlando (Sara Forestier), actually step-relations.

Continue reading: A Few Days In September Review

Paris, Je T'aime Review


Good
One would like to think that there at least a few other cities in the world besides Paris that could have inspired a film as varied in the types of cinematic pleasure so ably delivered by the anthology piece Paris Je T'Aime -- but it seems unlikely. This isn't due to an unavailability of good stories or locations in many other great metropolises, but more because being able to dangle the possibility of shooting in Paris in front of the world's greatest directors is going to be so much more enticing. Also, there are few other cities besides Paris that come with such a powerful and multifarious wealth of preassociated images and emotions for both filmmaker and audience to both draw upon and react against. So what could have been a collection of short films with a few highs, several lows, and a lot of muddled in-betweens is in fact a remarkably and consistently imaginative body of work, practically giddy with energy, that only rarely touches the ground.

Project overseers Emmanuel Benbihy and Tristan Carné wanted to create a cinematic map of Paris, with each short film representing one of the city's 20 arrondissements (neighborhoods). They ended up with 18 films, none of them more than a few minutes long and directed by a glittering, international roster of filmmakers. While none of the films here are anything approaching masterpieces, hardly a one is in any way a chore to sit through, which has to be some sort of an accomplishment.

Continue reading: Paris, Je T'aime Review

Breaking And Entering Review


Weak
Bathed in browns and tans and coursing with pent-up socioeconomic ponderings, Anthony Minghella's gentrification hiccup Breaking and Entering joins a rather terminal genre of films that want to have their cake and eat it too. Balancing a fumbling love triangle and a plethora of misconceived notions on class structure, Minghella has confined himself to an intimate story that betrays his often loftier ambitions.

A string of robberies has plagued the ghetto of King's Cross in London. The thievery seems to be centered on an architecture firm that (no surprise) is trying to clean up and reconstruct the famed slum into something more suitable for London's middle-class. Headed by pretty boy Will (Jude Law) and scruffy Sandy (Martin Freeman), the company has an internal conflict on whether it was a member of the cleaning staff (that Sandy is sweet on) or outside burglars that committed the crimes. While attempting his own makeshift stakeout, Will spots the young robber and jumps out of his posh SUV to chase him. It leads him to the home of Amira (the luminous Juliette Binoche), a survivor of the horrors of Bosnia who yearns to return to Sarajevo with her son Miro (Rafi Gavron), the thief in question.

Continue reading: Breaking And Entering Review

Caché Review


OK
A low-rent setup for two penthouse-level thespians, Michael Haneke's Caché is somehow rigorous yet formless, absolutely exacting in its procedure, yet seemingly bereft of intent and meaning, scrupulously acted for not much reason at all. Derived from the same nervous Parisian bourgeois milieu as writer/director Haneke's Code Unknown but quite a bit more tightly-packed, it's a thriller wrapped inside a moral lesson and presented with the glassy omnipotence of the true voyeur.

The story owes a debt on some level to that greatest of cinematic voyeurs, Hitchcock, whose corpulent presence seems constantly in the filmmaker's mind. Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil plays Anne and Georges Laurent, a perfectly respectable married example of the modern Paris intelligentsia. She works for a publisher where she can set her own hours, while he hosts a literary TV talk show. They have a nice little flat and a nice son, Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky). This is all filled in later, however, as the first thing we see is a static shot of the Laurent household which turns out to be a videotape Anne and Georges are watching which had been left on their doorstep with no explanation. Someone simply set up a videocamera across from their flat and filmed it for hours on end. Things escalate, of course, with tapes mysteriously appearing, soon with childlike drawings attached, of a face spitting blood, a chicken getting its head cut off. Someone starts calling for Georges, sending the tapes to his work, sending the notes to Pierrot at school. And there is no demand, no message, no anything but the constant surveillance and the feeling (soon proven) that the watcher knows more than the Laurents would like about themselves and their past, especially Georges'.

Continue reading: Caché Review

Bee Season Review


Excellent
One of the rarest beasts in the celluloid kingdom is the two-director film. I don't mean films with co-directors; I'm talking about two names under that "directed by" credit. It happened earlier this year with Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's relentless Sin City, which couldn't be farther from the style or subject matter than Scott McGehee and David Siegel's Bee Season.

We see a helicopter bring a large metal statue of the letter A over a west coast bridge. Watching intently, young Eliza Naumann (Flora Cross), her brother and her parents drive to colleges and jobs. They each have their own lives and secrets that we can't even fathom yet. Eliza's secret is that she's an expert speller, able to close her eyes and harness a power to see the letters come alive around her. After winning her school's spelling bee, she attempts to tell her father, Saul (Richard Gere), but he doesn't notice, not until she wins the next round and gets her name in the paper, which turns Saul's attention away from his son, Aaron (Max Minghella), and towards his daughter's strange talent.

Continue reading: Bee Season Review

Breaking And Entering Review


Weak
Bathed in browns and tans and coursing with pent-up socioeconomic ponderings, Anthony Minghella's gentrification hiccup Breaking and Entering joins a rather terminal genre of films that want to have their cake and eat it too. Balancing a fumbling love triangle and a plethora of misconceived notions on class structure, Minghella has confined himself to an intimate story that betrays his often loftier ambitions.A string of robberies has plagued the ghetto of King's Cross in London. The thievery seems to be centered on an architecture firm that (no surprise) is trying to clean up and reconstruct the famed slum into something more suitable for London's middle-class. Headed by pretty boy Will (Jude Law) and scruffy Sandy (Martin Freeman), the company has an internal conflict on whether it was a member of the cleaning staff (that Sandy is sweet on) or outside burglars that committed the crimes. While attempting his own makeshift stakeout, Will spots the young robber and jumps out of his posh SUV to chase him. It leads him to the home of Amira (the luminous Juliette Binoche), a survivor of the horrors of Bosnia who yearns to return to Sarajevo with her son Miro (Rafi Gavron), the thief in question.While he is away from his wife Liv (Robin Wright Penn) and borderline-autistic stepdaughter Bea (Poppy Rogers), Will takes coffee with a Russian prostitute (Vera Farmiga) while warming up for a rather awkward affair with Amira. The affair is about bourgeois guilt and escape for him, but for her it's a way of securing her son from a life in jail and keeping him away from the local coppers, led by the reliable Ray Winstone.Replacing regular cinematographer John Seal, the masterful Benoît Delhomme (The Proposition, What Time Is It There?) gives this panorama of class and relations an inebriated tone of mystique. That's half the problem: King's Cross has no real sense of danger or of any sort of differentiation of class, visually speaking. Catcalls of "better watch out" or "shouldn't be wearing those duds round here, mate" become rather pathetic signals of danger when Will chases Miro through the underbelly of the "slum." This also puts a lot of stress on Binoche and Gavron: If their surroundings don't communicate the class difference, the actors have to. Binoche has become an actress so malleable in her talents and appearance that it's often hard to categorize her. The fit, stressed mom in Michael Haneke's superb Cache has given way to a slightly chubbier, East-European-accented mother hen with drab clothing and a strongly felt love for her son and his future.Binoche is the heart of the film, and the scenery and mood matches her, ironically, up until Amira and Will's affair begins. The dazed atmosphere of the film becomes gelatinous, giving the class struggle a somewhat hollow resonance. The descents of all the characters (Liv is Scandinavian) becomes a point of order in the film's context but it's never given any sort of importance to offer the narrative a sense of intricacy. Even more so, Sandy's yearning and ultimate disappointment with his lower-class cleaning lady hints at a more developed and poignant representation of bourgeois ethos, but it's never developed past the films first 30 minutes. So, instead, the cultural clash is restricted to pale shades of white, and any sort of challenging critique of modern status and stratum is widely averted. Not quite a misdemeanor, but definitely nothing to celebrate.Is your refridgerator running?

Hail Mary Review


Very Good
"Denounced by the Pope" is pretty heavy marketing material, and one look at Hail Mary's premise can certainly make you see why he'd not take kindly to the film. Here, the lovely Myriem Roussel is a teenage gas station attendant named Marie, who becomes inexplicably pregnant despite being a virgin. She marries her boyfriend Joseph. Eventually she has a son.

Sound familiar? This reimagining of the birth of Jesus is both hauntingly beautiful and often quite funny, just the sort of surreal experience that is the hallmark of director Jean-Luc Godard's best work.

Continue reading: Hail Mary Review

Mary Review


Excellent
Out of the thousands of problems one could have with Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, there is one thing that sticks out above all: its sureness and certainty. There was no questioning going on in the film and no humbleness in the great face of possibility. It was an act of utter belief, which could be seen as a great gesture or a great detriment. This obviously got the attention of indie rebel Abel Ferrara, the firebrand behind Bad Lieutenant and King of New York. Where Gibson is steadfast in his Christianity, Ferrara has the foresight to fill the film with his own humility and confusion over what's going on up there.Jesus Christ walks into a cave (this would be directly after the resurrection) to find Mary Magdalene and attempts to comfort her. Then, Jesus yells "Cut!" It turns out that he is actor/director Tony Childress (Matthew Modine), and Mary is Marie Palesi (Juliette Binoche). Tony is just wrapping his retelling of the life of Jesus, This is My Blood, and is high on his own self-righteousness. So much so that he blows up at Marie when she announces she is going to Jerusalem. See, Marie has become obsessed with the character of Mary Magdalene and has made it her new mission to try to unlock her secrets.Back in New York, hard-nosed discussion show host Ted Younger (Forest Whitaker) is prepping a week long discussion on Jesus and the Bible. He has a pregnant wife (Heather Graham) that he ignores and a pressing need to get Childress on his show. Childress agrees but Younger hits a water hazard when his wife gives birth prematurely and the life of his son is not certain. Things get really messy, but Younger gives it up to god and Childress stages a coup when a bomb threat threatens to cancel the opening screening of his film.Childress isn't just a representation of Gibson-like pomposity; he is also a representation of Ferrara's feebleness/audacity with this subject matter as well. Ferrara's search is sincere and unbelievably open, but it really is a return to the ideas that he was tangling with in Bad Lieutenant: uncomplicated redemption. Bad Lieutenant's physical world of pain and corruption eventually led to that shocking scene where the Lieutenant offers to kill the rapist and the nun asks him not to, ostensibly forgiving the kids who raped her. The redemption sought after in Mary has much more breadth and a mercurial vastness. Every character is looking for their way to rediscover god, to be brought back into his graces. Childress tries to find it by emulating it, Younger does it by finally giving into his humility and Marie wants to find it through finding Mary Magdalene's true purpose. At moments, it can be overwhelming.Ferrara returns to his city of choice with an uncanny gothic style, dark and frankly frightening. Those long shots of Younger's limo rides home evoke a deep sense of dread in the current state of cynicism and fear (often, Younger is watching news of terrorism during his rides home). For the first time since 1996's The Funeral, Ferrara has found a sustainable tone and a story that allows him room to talk about a reverent subject. Somehow, he turns confusion into a concise study on what it means to believe in god in this day and age. Consider it an act of faith. Amen, brother.

Bee Season Review


Excellent
One of the rarest beasts in the celluloid kingdom is the two-director film. I don't mean films with co-directors; I'm talking about two names under that "directed by" credit. It happened earlier this year with Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's relentless Sin City, which couldn't be farther from the style or subject matter than Scott McGehee and David Siegel's Bee Season.

We see a helicopter bring a large metal statue of the letter A over a west coast bridge. Watching intently, young Eliza Naumann (Flora Cross), her brother and her parents drive to colleges and jobs. They each have their own lives and secrets that we can't even fathom yet. Eliza's secret is that she's an expert speller, able to close her eyes and harness a power to see the letters come alive around her. After winning her school's spelling bee, she attempts to tell her father, Saul (Richard Gere), but he doesn't notice, not until she wins the next round and gets her name in the paper, which turns Saul's attention away from his son, Aaron (Max Minghella), and towards his daughter's strange talent.

Continue reading: Bee Season Review

The Widow Of Saint-Pierre Review


Excellent
Based on a true story, The Widow of Saint-Pierre is a surprisingly effective French period piece that spins a timeless tale of love and compassion.

In 1849, we find ourselves on a French island colony near the Canadian coast, a cold and inhospitable land with few inhabitants. In a night of drunkenness, Auguste (Emir Kusturica) and his friend kill a local man. Auguste is sentenced to die. The only problem -- there's no guillotine on the island, and no executioner either.

Continue reading: The Widow Of Saint-Pierre Review

Blue (Trois Couleurs: Bleu) Review


Excellent
The only thing I remembered about seeing Krzysztof Kieslowski's Blue -- the first part of his Three Colors trilogy (see also White, Red) -- is that it put me to sleep right at the 40-minute mark.

Watched again with a more mature and critical eye nearly 10 years later I didn't nod off, but impatient types will find the film slow and difficult, and to some extent, that's what Kieslowski wanted. Based on the colors and ideals of the French flag, Blue focuses on the idea of "liberty," though not in any political sense. Rather, the film tells a deeply personal story of loss and salvation, Juliette Binoche owning the lead as a woman whose husband and daughter are suddenly killed in a car wreck. Binoche's Julie then tries to piece her life back together -- not by visiting the past, but by creating a new future for herself, free from the trappings of yesterday. But of course, it's the past that refuses to let go, as old acquintances track her down and untold truths begin to surface.

Continue reading: Blue (Trois Couleurs: Bleu) Review

Caché Review


OK
A low-rent setup for two penthouse-level thespians, Michael Haneke's Caché is somehow rigorous yet formless, absolutely exacting in its procedure, yet seemingly bereft of intent and meaning, scrupulously acted for not much reason at all. Derived from the same nervous Parisian bourgeois milieu as writer/director Haneke's Code Unknown but quite a bit more tightly-packed, it's a thriller wrapped inside a moral lesson and presented with the glassy omnipotence of the true voyeur.

The story owes a debt on some level to that greatest of cinematic voyeurs, Hitchcock, whose corpulent presence seems constantly in the filmmaker's mind. Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil plays Anne and Georges Laurent, a perfectly respectable married example of the modern Paris intelligentsia. She works for a publisher where she can set her own hours, while he hosts a literary TV talk show. They have a nice little flat and a nice son, Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky). This is all filled in later, however, as the first thing we see is a static shot of the Laurent household which turns out to be a videotape Anne and Georges are watching which had been left on their doorstep with no explanation. Someone simply set up a videocamera across from their flat and filmed it for hours on end. Things escalate, of course, with tapes mysteriously appearing, soon with childlike drawings attached, of a face spitting blood, a chicken getting its head cut off. Someone starts calling for Georges, sending the tapes to his work, sending the notes to Pierrot at school. And there is no demand, no message, no anything but the constant surveillance and the feeling (soon proven) that the watcher knows more than the Laurents would like about themselves and their past, especially Georges'.

Continue reading: Caché Review

The English Patient Review


Excellent
Just so you know, "patient" refers to a man with a medical condition, not the ability to sit through a film that flirts with a three hour running time.

You think I'm kidding, but I'm serious -- The English Patient has got to be the longest romance movie I've ever seen [This was before Titanic. -Ed.]. Well, Out of Africa was awfully long, too, but that doesn't make it okay! (Like your mother might say, "If Meryl Streep jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?")

Continue reading: The English Patient Review

Code Unknown Review


Good
Austrian bad boy filmmaker Michael Haneke follows up his nihilistic home invasion psychodrama Funny Games with the elusive Code Unknown. Frustrating and seemingly disconnected, Haneke's crafted one of those strange films that, at the time of viewing, inspires reactions ranging from outrage ("What a waste of my time!") to bafflement ("What's the point?"). It's certainly cold, observing an ensemble of characters tied together overtly and incongruously through the opening sequence of street violence.

Following a clearly telegraphed prologue in a classroom for the deaf where no one can figure out what a little girl is miming (theme: miscommunication), Haneke details within a single, unbroken shot four characters -- a young man, his brother's girlfriend, a homeless woman, an angry black schoolteacher -- whose paths cross on a busy Paris street corner. The young man, Jean (Alexandre Hamidi) tosses a crumpled bag into the lap of the homeless woman (Luminita Gheorghiu), a motiveless crime springing from his own insouciance. The black teacher (Ona Lu Yenke) demands the youth apologize, using physical force to make his point. The police break it up, taking the black man away in handcuffs. Race, class, righteousness, and passive observance collide, and each party involved carries the moral baggage.

Continue reading: Code Unknown Review

Rendez-vous Review


Good
Good news for you pervs out there: Juliette Binoche spends virtually the entirety of Rendez-vous buck naked, usually begging for sex from one of two men she's just met. At 20 years old, she may look like a teenage boy, but hey, that's the price of gratuitous nudity.

Rendez-vous begins with aspiring actress Nina (Binoche) fresh off the boat in Paris, where she immediately falls into bed with both real estate clerk Paulot (Wadeck Stanczak) and his in-your-face roommate Quentin (Lambert Wilson). Soon enough, secrecy is put aside and the whole affair becomes a messy conflagration of emotion and raw sexuality.

Continue reading: Rendez-vous Review

The Unbearable Lightness Of Being Review


Extraordinary
When I first watched The Unbearable Lightness of Being, I was dating a poet who had read and loved the book. Not wanting to involve myself in reading the book at that point, I rented the movie instead. I loved it then and I love it now, but, at this point in time, I can compare it to the novel by Milan Kundera. The two are both vastly similar and vastly different. As an adaptation, it succeeds in transcribing the events of the novel, but does not do as well in successfully demonstrating its points.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being focuses on Tomas (Daniel-Day Lewis), a Don Juanist terrified of commitment and a surgeon at a Prague hospital. He is trapped between his platonic and semi-erotic love of Teresa (Academy Award winner Juliette Binoche), a photographer and his wife and a erotic and semi-platonic love of Sabina (Lena Olin), a painter and his mistress.

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Jet Lag Review


Good
Rose (Juliette Binoche) is an accomplished beautician traveling to Acapulco to flee her rage-aholic boyfriend. Félix (Jean Reno) is a chef who's traveling to Munich to attend the funeral of his ex-girlfriend's grandmother, much to the dismay of his former lover. In Danièle Thompson's breezy romantic comedy Jet Lag, the two meet in a Parisian airport brought to a standstill by a public utilities strike, and it's not long before these opposites realize that, despite their first assessments of one another, they just might be a perfect match.

No one should fret over the fact that I've just revealed the film's ending, since all but the most novice filmgoers will deduce such a conclusion from Jet Lag's opening moments, in which we find Rose - who, to top off a bad day that's left her stranded indefinitely in the airport, has lost her phone down a toilet - asking to use Félix's cell. Decked out in stylishly alluring attire and an abundant amount of make-up, Rose seems, at first glance, to be a somewhat trashy primadonna. However, despite her appearance, Rose has set herself down a life-altering path - finally seizing the opportunity to break free from her no-good boyfriend's violent control - even though waiting for her flight provides numerous chances to give up the escape plan and return home, Stockholm Syndrome-style, to her tormentor.

Continue reading: Jet Lag Review

Chocolat Review


OK
Take Footloose and Like Water for Chocolate, steep the combo in a heaping helping of corn syrup, and you'll come out with the sticky, sickly-sweet romantic cautionary tale Chocolat. The Cider House Rules director Lasse Hallström helms this adaptation of the best-selling novel by Joanne Harris, and delivers yet another pretty package of tempered social messages -- this time preaching about social tolerance instead of abortion.

Set against the idyllic backdrop of a quaint puritanical village in the French countryside, mysterious Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter, dressed in identical Red Riding Hood outfits, literally blow into town "on the North Wind." Within days, the duo brazenly opens a magical chocolaterie across the street -- gasp -- from the church, and on the first week of Lent, no less. Vianne -- who comes off as a 50's-era Erin Brockovich sporting low-cut tops and bright red stilettos -- is turning the townsfolk on to her sweets, which a la Pleasantville miraculously inspire increased sex drives, feminist awakenings, familial reconciliation and even criminal rehabilitation. Soon, the town's prudish mayor launches a campaign to drive the sin-inducing shop out of business.

Continue reading: Chocolat Review

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