Microbe and Gasoline

What a great choice for a group of French students from Seattle Academy as their first exposure to the 2016 Seattle International Film Festival. "Microbe et Gasoil" (English captions) is writer/director Michael Gondry's latest, most charming French entry about two teenage boys who are too clever to fit in. This review was first published in May, 2016, so some of you have seen it before.

If you have followed Gondry's career, you already know cinema is his playground; "Mood Indigo," "Be Kind Rewind," "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Soul," are just a few of his inimitable films. This latest one has much less whimsy and far more heart!

Once again he has assembled a terrific cast for his earnest examination of teenage friendship.

His cast:
  • Douglas Brosset is Oscar, an undersized teenager nicknamed "Microbe." He is an artist and of course he is misunderstood, overlooked and teased.
  • Audrey Tautou is Marie-Thérèse, his depressed mother.
  • Ange Dargent is Daniel, his older brother, who unexpectedly loans Oscar his GPS.
  • Theophile Baquet plays Theo, the audacious newcomer who is smart, inventive, resourceful (and misunderstood). This handsome charmer can build all sorts of things out of scrap, including the perfect use for a two-stroke gasoline engine, hence his nickname, "Gasoil."
  • Diane Besnier brings us Laura, the lovely girl of Oscar's dreams.
This wonderful film captures perfectly an adolescent boy's need for adventure and excitement. Our two young heroes decide to take off for the summer in a homemade house on wheels. They tell each other ghost stories, engage in philosophical arguments, and flirt with disaster more than once. Watch two cops take a selfie beside that geranium-bedecked window. And see how Oscar gets a Samurai haircut in a Korean whorehouse...

This one is satisfying on so many levels I won't try to list them. This is R-rated because it is European, with a little different sensibility from what we construe as acceptable for our teenagers. More's the pity. I loved it!
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See the Google Preview:
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The Innocents

This brilliant drama, "Les innocentes" (English captions), was submitted by France and Poland for the 2016 Seattle International Film Festival. Our press screening audience was agreed: This is one of the best films of 2016 SIFF so far. This review was first published in the Spring of 2016, so some of you have seen it before.

Director Anne Fontaine ("Gemma Bovery") working with a team of writers, brings us the upsetting tale of a young Red Cross worker dispatched to assist the survivors of the German invasion in 1945 Poland. She is called to help seven Benedictine nuns who are in an advanced stage of pregnancy. They had been raped by the Russian army who came to liberate them from the Germans. Therein lies our tale...

The cast:
  • Lou de Laâge - Mathilde Beaulieu has her work cut out for her. She assists with surgery on wounded French soldiers, but is secretly called to help at a local cloister. Their secrets are not hers to tell...
  • Agata Kulesza is the Mother Abbess. It is her religious community that has been violated, but the vows her lambs took are the most important thing. They MUST NOT BREAK THEM.
  • Agata Buzek - Maria isn't as deeply traumatized as some of the others, but has to find a middle ground for her sisters. She can see the damage being done by Mother Abbess but has sworn to obey.
  • Joanna Kulig - Irena is torn between her vows and motherhood.
  • Vincent Macaigne - Samuel has to accept the loss of Mathilde when they go their separate ways, but first there is additional work to be done.
This memorable film addresses the quandaries for the women, from a social, philosophical, political and spiritual point of view. Or as one audience member put it, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!"
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See the Sundance trailer:
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Jason Bourne

Jason Bourne never disappoints. His fans expect interesting locations: Here we have Athens, Greece; Reykjavik, Iceland; Langley, VA; McLean, VA; Silicon Valley, CA; Rome, Italy; Berlin, Germany; London, England; and Las Vegas, NV. They know Bourne is always on the move, and they see motorcycles, taxis, limos, vans, trains, subways, and buses. They expect crowds, so they race through train stations, bus terminals, subway stations, casinos, and a massive building evacuation. They expect action, so they welcome LOTS of fisticuffs, vehicular mayhem, gunfire and rioting.

Director Paul Greengrass ("United 93") is a master at this type of PG-13 film. Although this is his third Bourne outing, it probably won't be his last. Personally, I object to his constant use of herky jerky hand-held cameras, but his fans love the results.

His cast:

  • Matt Damon ("The Martian") Jason is a man without a country. With each Bourne episode, he loses more of himself (but where does he get the cash for all those tickets?). This time he discovers that somehow his father was involved in his recruitment. Damon is also one of the producers of this one.
  • Tommy Lee Jones ("Lincoln") CIA Director Robert Dewey has several problems that need to be solved. With a face that looks like he's been rode hard and put up wet (to quote a friend from Texas), he is as unrelenting in his own way as Bourne.
  • Alicia Vikander (Oscar for "The Danish Girl") Heather Lee is a new face at the CIA, but a smart and ambitious one
  • Julia Stiles ("The Silver Linings Playbook") Nicky is back for the fourth time and we can see that she is actively on Jason's side.
  • Vincent Cassel ("Black Swan") Asset is an Energizer Bunny turned villain. He. Just. Doesn't. Quit!
  • Riz Ahmed ("The Reluctant Fundamentalist") Aaron Kailoor is a dot.com whiz kid who developed Deep Dream, the newest, latest and greatest. He's made a few deals in his lifetime that he has come to regret...
  • Ato Essandon ("Django Unchained") Craig Jeffers is the CIA Director's right-hand man. At times, that can be quite a challenge.
This is a typical Jason Bourne outing; after suspending disbelief for 123 minutes, fans applauded, then went home sated and happy. Isn't that what it's all about?
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See what I mean:
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Star Trek Beyond

Here we go again. Amazing special effects? Check. Lots of computer generated imaging? Check. Lots of shooting? Check. Endless fisticuffs? Check. Likeable characters? Check. Otherworldly creatures? Check. Plenty of humor? Check. Funny dialog? Check. Hair-breadth escapes? Check.

One thing is unexpected: Co-writer Simon Pegg opens as himself and thanks us for coming out into a theater to see this film. And a big "Thank You" appears on the screen. Nice...

So what new experiences can director Justin Lin ("Fast & Furious") bring to this event? The answer is: Not much. Nor do we want much. This is comfortable, familiar territory where we come for mindless entertainment. The main theme seems to be, "United we stand, divided we fall." Scotty's granny told him, "Ye canna break a stick in a bundle!"

Our actors and their characters:
  • Chris Pine ("Into the Woods") Captain James T. Kirk is on his third year of this five-year mission. His part in the funny opening scene sets the tone, but look a little closer. Yawn... I suspect ennui has set in. He looks a bit bored, but older somehow.
  • Zachary Quinto ("Margin Call") Spock has reasons why he may quit the USS Enterprise, but he isn't ready to talk about it yet. At one point he says, "I have been contemplating the nature of mortality," so you see, he hasn't changed.
  • Karl Urban ("RED") Doctor McCoy is just as thorny as ever, e.g., "Well, that's just typical!" but toasts Kirk's birthday two days early: "Here's to perfect eyesight and a full head of hair!" His reaction after one battle over an icon, "You mean they attacked us for some doodad?"
  • Simon Pegg ("Mission Impossible") Scotty now has a dilithium chamber for those crystals. As he trudges over the rocks and through the gullies of a strange new planet, he complains, "Are we there yet?"
  • Anton Yelchin ("Green Room") It was wrenching to know we are seeing the late actor in one of his final roles. He died in a bizarre accident at his home on June 19, 2016. His Chekov is one of the most lovable and polite characters in this franchise. "Put that phaser down! ...please."
  • Zoë Saldana ("Guardians of the Galaxy") Uhura is perplexed by Spock's behavior but knows better than to quiz him.
  • John Cho ("Grandma") Sulu is ready for whatever responsibility Kirk hands him.
  • Sofia Boutella ("Kingsman: The Secret Service") Jaylah has been living in an old abandoned starship; she calls it her "house." As the crew tries to reactivate it, they liken it to a "horse and buggy."
  • Idris Elba ("The Jungle Book") Krall seems ageless and he is a sworn enemy of the Federation. No one is quite sure why. Elba's features are lost during most of this story, covered by extensive makeup. We finally see him during the final quarter of the story.
As we watch the USS Enterprise torn asunder, not by some gigantic enemy but by thousands of little ones, we can't help but shudder. When our intrepid heroes are cast onto a strange planet, they are inadvertently paired off: Scotty and Jaylah; Sulu and Uhura; McCoy and Spock; Kirk and Chekov; we get to see each character play to his or her own strengths.

This is rated PG-13, so expect mild profanity ("Dammit Jim!"), lots of violence (among aliens), vehicular mayhem (on a motorcycle!), lots and lots and lots of blowie uppie stuff, and no sexual tension whatsoever. But a happy ending: I'm sure another chapter is being written as we speak.
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Here is a sample:
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Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

When "Absolutely Fabulous" finished its lengthy run on BBC, a generous friend allowed me to watch six seasons in one hilarious binge. Now I'm prepared to reunite with my two most outrageous friends for another shameless get-together. It was a pleasure to share this experience with an enthusiastic screening audience last night.

Written by the brilliant Jennifer Saunders ("French & Saunders") and directed by Mandie Fletcher ("Hamish Macbeth") we know we are in good hands from the very beginning, which starts out full throttle and rarely lets up.

Our old friends (and a few new):
  • Jennifer Saunders ("The Vicar of Dibley") Edina must somehow cope with the loss of income. Her daughter has taken in boarders, but even that device might fail. She has alienated a book publisher by offering a "blah" book (REALLY!), and she thinks a pariah is a fish.
  • Joanna Lumley ("Me Before You") Patsy will never change, e.g., she still chases young men (and old) and tries to trade on her hard-earned reputation not only as a fashion maven, but as a high-end slut and porn queen.
  • Julia Sawalha ("Lark Rise to Candleford") Saffron has given up on her mother (Again!). Now her main concern is keeping her daughter Lola out of her mother's sphere of influence.
  • Jane Horrocks ("Little Voice") is back again as Bubbles. She is still an ill-treated, weirdly dressed kook whose life and fortunes you would never anticipate.
  • John Hamm ("Million-Dollar Arm") playing himself, stumbles into a fashion launch, and THEN stumbles into Patsy...AGAIN. (Check the lipstick!) You have to see it...
  • Kate Moss ("Zoolander 2") as Kate Moss, is the central figure in a murder, a scandal and Edina's self-imposed exile, in which Patsy must pose as a man. Yeah, you've gotta see it....
  • Rebel Wilson ("Bridesmaids") This flight attendant calls herself "The DNB" but I can't tell you what it means in a PG-13 review.
As you might expect from this R-rated reunion, you will see drinking, drugging, insult humor (mostly about aging), and the most astonishing array of cameos I think I have ever seen! Some of the screening audience was already planning to see it again because this is so fast-paced and packed with so many punch lines, famous faces, outrageous clothes, and laugh-out-loud situations, you can't possibly catch it all the first time. I particularly enjoyed that vehicular chase with the little three-wheeled fish van being pursued by local cops.

If you weren't a fan when this series was running on television, expect a learning curve; most of us simply boarded a moving train, we knew exactly what to expect and were completely up to speed.
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Here is a sample:
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The Chorus

"Les Choristes" (English captions) is one of those movies you never forget. I was shocked to discover last night that I have never written a review of this heart-warming, Oscar-nominated classic from 2004.

Directed by Christophe Barratier ("Paris 36"), who is a fearless director of children: he sets this in a home for incorrigible boys.

Part of his huge cast:
  • Gérard Jugnot ("Fashion Victim") is Clément Mathieu, a frustrated would-be musician, an unemployed jack-of-all-trades, who is going to try his hand at being a proctor at a boys' school. The boys call him "Chrome Dome." Look at the trailer, you'll see why.
  • François Berléand ("Transporter" franchise) Rachin is the deeply unhappy headmaster. He is cruel, selfish, and uncaring.
  • Kad Merad ("Nicholas on Holiday") Chabert has been the coach for awhile, but he does look out for the boys.
  • Jean-Paul Bonnaire ("A Buttefly Kiss") La Père Maxence is the gardener, janitor and is the guy who replaces all those broken windows.
  • Jean-Baptiste Maunier ("L'auberge rouge") Pierre Morhange sings like an angel, but no one suspects it because he is so busy misbehaving.
  • Maxence Perrin ("Paris 36") Pèpinot is beyond a doubt the most adorable little boy in captivity! But Pèpinot's father is coming to get him on Saturday. Pèpinot is the boy with the metronome in the trailer.
Because I discovered I hadn't reviewed this treasure, I was forced to watch it again last night. I fell in love all over again. It has armloads of people to root for, a truly hiss-worthy villain, goose-bumpy scenes, beautiful music and lots of humor...all squeezed into a 97-minute, PG-13 delight.

See this one!
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Please look at this trailer:
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