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3 more “Pictures” … Allied, Rosalie Blum, Passengers.

Some more “Pictures”

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard are teamed up by Robert Zemeckis (ROMANCING THE STONE (1984); the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy; FORREST GUMP (1994)) in ALLIED.

Max Vatan, a Canadian espionage agent meets up with a French Resistance agent, Marianne Beausejour, in Casablanca to assassinate some Nazis. They do. They fall in love. They return to London. They marry. They have a daughter. Then, guess what? British Intelligence suspects that Marianne is a double agent. Oh, poor Max has a dilemma, country or wife and child? His duty is to assassinate her, immediately, when the British Intelligence can confirm their suspicion. A trap is set. She falls for it. Oh, no!

Now this film may have some potential if we believed that Max and Marianne were in love, but the sexual chemistry, let alone the ‘love’ stuff/depth just does not exist between these figures. Mr Pitt and Ms Cotillard are almost Frigidaire in their inter-actions – the choreographed mechanics of their love making in the car in a rising desert storm (I kid you not) is close your eyes and cringe time. The film lacks that basic and necessary belief in the urgent ‘push’ of the sexual life-force that can cause such catastrophe in otherwise wise decision making by the individuals, for us to buy the premise of the plotting. So the ‘picture’ grinds on and on to a boring couple of hours in the suburbs of war torn London and in the cinema we sit in.

Dull, dull, DULL! The only reason one went was because one is a fan of Mr Pitt and Ms Cotillard. They fail us.

As this film is set in Casablanca during the Nazi occupation, one cannot help but recall CASABLANCA of 1942, with Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Heinreid and the urgent black and white genius of the Warner Brothers ‘Style’ with the ‘Dramatic’ score by Max Steiner, pushing the story to a thrilling edge-of-your-seat romantic fantasy. Directed simply by Michal Curtiz, with his eye on the story, loaded with a supporting cast of excellence: Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Dooley Wilson and a company of extras that were mostly European refugees from Hitler’s Germany – so, they weren’t acting in that famous scene of the duel of the National Anthems, they were ‘living’ it. All the elements of the film has a storytelling power that has made it one of the Classics of Hollywood.

If only Mr Zemeckis and his production team had watched it and borrowed some of the lessons it could teach for basic cinematic gifting we may have had a ‘picture’ to want to cherish instead of stirring restlessly in one’s seat with boredom. And what about the awful set dressing in all of the locations?  Tokenistic ugliness that assisted in one’s ease in non-belief with what we were watching. At least, as Curtiz did, when in doubt, shroud it in ‘fog’ – I mean, apparently that was a cardboard plane that Ingrid and Paul were boarding in the film’s famous last moments with Claude and Humphrey waving goodbye!   I haven’t really noticed or cared. Don’t go to see ALLIED, get out your DVD of CASABLANCA.

Of course you may be fans of the two actors, as I am, and nothing will stop you – you have been warned! If you have to see it, just wait until you are on that long international plane flight – it’ll put you to sleep.

A 2015 French film debut by Julien Rappeneau – he also composed the music. This is a film set in a provincial city (I presume) somewhere in France and introduces us to Rosalie Blum (Noemie Lvovsky), Vincent (Kyan Khojandi) and Aude (Alice Isaaz), three individuals that become, after many a travail, entwined to a happy ending. The three of them are representatives of the contemporary malaise of depression and isolation in the modern bourgeois world. They are lost and lonely individuals. To be honest, this film is, in the boldest pragmatic terms, about urban stalking. That it turns out happily, say, unlike ELLE, is what makes this film a romantic dra-mody, ultimately. A fantasy like LA LA LAND, except with a happy ending. It is a charming film.

 Is it that it is in a foreign language that, ultimately, disarms me? I mean if it were in English would I be as satisfied?

Anyway, the performances are lovely, even if the story set-up formula is slightly too familiar. These actors, on the other hand, are not familiar to me and are appealing because of their ordinary but soulful looks (although, Ms Isaaz, is, maybe, too traditionally cinematically good-looking and is a ‘fly’ in that theory, though she can be soulful if not ordinary with her look(s)). This is not a great film and it is not, as some would have you believe, a funny film, but it is an amusing one and a heart moving one – lots of slightly weird counter-cutlture characters, it’s always pleasant to be diverted by quirkiness, isn’t it? ROSALIE BLUM another in that French tradition of reassuring comfortabliity. If this ‘gang’ of French people can make it, there is hope for us all. A lovely summer afternoon – evening – spending of time.

This is a very glamorously designed, CGI piece of space junk. It looks gorgeous and one is left in a state of wonder at all that money spent on Design with only a cast of (virtually) four actors: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen and Laurence Fishburne – it must have been a lonely picture to make. I hope they liked each other.

A space ship, Avalon, is carrying some five and a half thousand earthlings to a planet called Homestead II. It will take them a couple of hundred years or so to get there – don’t ask anyone to explain how Homestead II got built – so they are put to ‘sleep’ (hibernation) and the ‘ship’ travels on and on to its destination. Unfortunately, the ship hits some space debris action on its journey which causes a malfunction to its computer-stuff that is, at first, detected only with the early awakening of one, only one, of the passengers, Jim (Chris Pratt) – it will be 90 years before he reaches his destination!

After an ethical dilemma advised by an android bartender, called Arthur, played by Michael Sheen, Aurora (I’m not kidding- that’s the name they have given this sleeping beauty) becomes part of the scenery, a year later. She is the choice ‘Jimbo’, the clever-with-his-hands blue collar worker (they’ll need those guys on Homestead II, too, I guess) has made, after a year of browsing the other passengers in their hibernation ‘glass boxes’ and their life history in the data files. What a ‘stalker’ or ‘social engineering’ thing to do, eh? Well, it has been a lonely year on this space ship, hasn’t it? They meet. She is from a slightly more ‘patrician’ class. However, there is a steamy romance, that only just goes to show that even in the future with all that hi-tech advancement going-on around them, the animal urge for sex can’t be denied – man the primitive in all that hi-tech glitz: “Wipe the table of the breakfast food, we are having sex, now, you’re so hot.” Clatter, Crash, Humph! (I got to wondering whether a pregnancy, after all that action, would happen, they are both so prime – what a plot twist, that would be – but, predictably, not examined, Naw!! – “What, a space baby with a long future of watching his or her parents get really old and die as Avalon speeds on?” Nup, too complicated.

New plot addition when all that sex action starts to get repetitive and boring comes along amidst another set of computer malfunctions, when Laurence Fishburne’s crew member wakes up – of the Officer and a Gentleman class – and assists them to access more of the inner workings of Avalon. He, unfortunately, dies of natural causes, quite quickly, leaving them alone again.

The Avalon is deteriorating quite alarmingly and what follows is a high-tech adventure of visual sensations where our two heroes set out to save the spaceship from destruction that is totally and utterly ridiculous in its logics and possibilities. Just plain dumb. I mean really DUMB (Boy, does GRAVITY, have some things to answer for with this ‘picture’).

The Director, Marten Tyldum, and his collaborators/artists has come to believe that if we are still in our seats, when this stuff begins – what the Hollywood ‘Honchos’ call the Third Act of the Story – we will believe anything. We don’t, no matter how gorgeous all the imagery may be in all that action packed stupidity. Spare me.

Now look, Chris Pratt has to carry the first 20-30 minutes of the film all by himself, with a little bit of help from Mr Sheen. Truly, he just can’t. He looks gorgeous – a space hunk (he was a wrestler and day-time stripper in a past life, great potential for a film career as film history as taught us) – but he does not have the capacity to deliver an intelligent sub-text or emotional range beyond A to nearly B. Maybe, just maybe, he has a small comic timing skill. He is just awful, although, his ‘cuteness’ keeps you hoping. If the hero of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is your break through role and movie, some acting class when you get into something a little more demanding might be an asset. Pretty and ‘quippy’-timing is not enough.

The proof of his ability is made clearer when Jennifer Lawrence, who can really, really act turns up. The contrast between the two is shocking – astounding (and, do I occasionally catch Ms Lawrence looking at her partner in two shots with some disbelief, but still manages to carry on?) If Ms Lawrence deserves to be nominated for a Best Acting Award, this should be the prime opportunity. Not only does she believe and have us believe (nearly) all the preposterous plot twists, the demands of the hi-tech whizz-bangery and all that green-screen acting, but she also works beside Chris Pratt, fairly honourably. She won’t be nominated and yet she gives an outstanding performance that sustains one through this piece of Hollywood debris. Thank God for Jennifer.

There is no reason to ever to pay to see this film, I promise you, unless you are ‘stoned’-dead. I forgive Ms Lawrence. Although, with a $20 million pay packet or percentage deal, for this picture, maybe she knowingly, sold her soul to the devil. I recall she played that capitalist heart warmer JOY last year with such conviction and have begun to wonder, maybe she was’t really acting there, just being her real self. We shall see. I hope not. I do really, really like her. Just be more judicious about the pictures you decide to do.