Movie Review ~ Zeros and Ones

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Called to Rome to stop an imminent terrorist bombing, a soldier desperately seeks news of his imprisoned brother — a rebel with knowledge that could thwart the attack. Navigating the capital’s darkened streets, he races to a series of ominous encounters to keep the Vatican from being blown up.

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Cristina Chiriac, Phil Neilson, Anna Ferrara, Salvatore Ruocco, Valerio Mastandrea, Babak Karimi

Director: Abel Ferrara

Rated: R

Running Length: 85 minutes

TMMM Score: (1/10)

Review:  I’m going to relay an anecdote to you and I wanted you to go with me on this journey.  OK? 

OK.

I only watched The Oprah Winfrey Show on a regular basis for its last season because, what can I say, I was simply a very late adopter when it came to the most popular talk show on the planet.  During that last season I was watching an interview with The Judds, Naomi and Wynonna to be exact, and they were talking about their relationship and how they made it work.  More than anything, when she was faced with a bad situation that was what it was but that she had some control over her participation in, Wynonna said that she had learned to say to a number of things in her life “That may be fine for you but that doesn’t work for me.” and then being willing to get up and leave that particular situation in the past.  I think I had what Oprah would classify as an “A-Ha!” moment right then and there and I never looked back.  I often use that phrase in times when I’m feeling cornered, step back, and recognize I actually do have more autonomy over my actions than I originally thought.

You get this lengthy look into my brain today for a few reasons.  One, it makes this post that much longer because I have so little to say about director Abel Ferrara’s newest film Zeros and Ones that I had to think of something else to include in my write-up.  I also needed to give you background into why I made it through all 85 minutes of this film (yes, you actually DO have to watch to the very end of this movie) and then said “That doesn’t work for me.” turned off my TV, and went directly to bed.  Naming your film after the scores the movie will likely get is very prophetic on the part of Ferrara, so the longtime director with his fair share of hits and misses should be given a nice pat on the back and then a good kick in the pants for such a lazy and pointless endeavor that robs the viewer of their time and its star of not one but two good roles. 

Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) appears as himself at the beginning and end of the movie for some inexplicable reason that he actually does try to explain (but doesn’t really) and only further confuses whatever narrative Ferrara is trying to chase in Zeros and Ones.  Hawke then goes on to play twin brothers, one searching for the other in Rome shortly after a terrorist bomb targets the Vatican…or else he’s trying to prevent the Vatican from being blown up.  Honestly, I never really understood what was going on because there’s so much of us just watching Hawke tool around the city as one brother or another either behind a mask (production was done during the early height of COVID) or in full crazy mode.  The image you see on the poster is a Hawke that isn’t present in this film…false advertising, for shame!

One of the most famous songs The Judds recorded was ‘Love Can Build a Bridge’.  Well, as it relates to Abel Ferrara’s Zeros and Ones, ‘Love Can Build a Bridge but Ferrara Can’t Make a Cohesive Movie’…and that doesn’t work for me, nor will it for you.  So skippable, I was almost tempted to tell you off the bat to skip my review.  Almost. Hope you stuck around!

Movie Review ~ The Guilty (2021)

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The Facts:

Synopsis: A demoted police officer assigned to a call dispatch desk is conflicted when he receives an emergency phone call from a kidnapped woman.

Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riley Keough, Ethan Hawke, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Dano, Bill Burr, Gillian Zinser, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Christina Vidal

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Rated: R

Running Length: 90 minutes

TMMM Score: (6/10)

Review:  American remakes of foreign films are a strange beast indeed, especially when the original is one you still are recommending to people when the English version is released for a wide audience.  That’s the dilemma I face when a film like The Guilty arrives for its limited theatrical run and streaming debut on Netflix.  Here’s a smart, compact, film from the slick streaming service by a popular director (Antoine Fuqua) with an enhanced screenplay courtesy of an in-demand writer known for their pot-boilers (True Detective’s Nic Pizzolatto) and starring a red-hot actor (Jake Gyllenhaal) who always attracts attention in any project he attaches himself to.  Sounds like a no-brainer, right?  Of course. The tiny wrinkle is that they’ve remade a 2018 film from Denmark still going strong (on Hulu) and while the 2021 has all the right players, does it improve the game?

At a 911 call center, LAPD officer Joe Baylor (Gyllenhaal, End of Watch) is nearing the end of his shift as the wildfires in the Hollywood Hills rages on nearby.  Relegated to a desk job as he waits on a trial for something we’ll learn more about as the 91 minutes tick away, Joe is a hot-tempered live wire…not a perfect match for the charged atmosphere he’s working in.  In between phone calls to his estranged wife, he receives a call from a teary woman (Riley Keough, The Lodge) who appears to be talking to a small child.  Eventually realizing the call to a “child” is a ruse to whomever she is with, Joe confirms the woman has been kidnapped and launches into a one-man mission to save her and reunite her with her children.

To say more of the film might give away one or two of the twists and turns present in the original and thankfully retained here.  It’s nice to see that Pizzolatto has kept a hold of much of the solid structure installed by original screenwriters Emil Nygaard Albertsen & Gustav Möller, adding small tweaks for its transport to America along the way.  Adding in the pressure of the California fires ups the ante for making Joe such a man on a solo mission, because much of the force is busy attending to that devastation and danger. 

Where you have to look at remakes is how they diverge from the initial film and then make your comparisons and as strong as the team is on the 2021 take, it can’t quite make it over the bar set so high by the 2018 Danish thriller.  The beauty of the previous film is that it was so simple a set-up which made the events unfolding so breathless and terrible all at once.  Here, everything is just awful all around so things start at level 10 and just have nowhere to go.  Fuqua and Pizzolatto remade The Magnificent Seven and, while no classic or in danger of besting the original, it had some fun moments of ingenuity that boosted a few of the characters in interesting ways.  Pizzolatto isn’t as successful here with the way they’ve added physical burdens to Baylor to go along with the emotional weight he’s carrying inside.  This is especially true in a strangely self-indulgent coda, not present in 2018, that stretches on far too long and is meant to turn our attention from the story to Gyllenhaal’s performance…and that doesn’t feel right.  It feels show pony chic and it cheapens the mood. 

The Guilty would actually have made a wonderful audiobook or podcast experience since so much of it is just Gyllenhaal onscreen talking to disembodied voices.  Keep your ears open and see if you can put some voices with the famous faces of actors and comedians that pop up throughout.  By all means, do yourself a favor and watch both films to compare but I’d still give my overall greenlight to the 2018 entry which does a better job with portraying the inner turmoil going on below the surface of the emergency operator and the way that his intervention might wind up doing more harm than good.

Movie Review ~ Valerian and the City of 1000 Planets

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The Facts
:

Synopsis: A dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

Stars: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, Rutger Hauer, Elizabeth Debicki

Director: Luc Besson

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 137 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review: Plenty of people (aka snobby critics) are going to tell you how terrible Valerian and the City of 1000 Planets is before you’ll get a chance to see the movie and judge for yourself.  That’s too bad because while Valerian admittedly has its hefty share of major problems, every now and then something kinda brilliant happens.  Popping into theaters showing movies that reek of summer sameness, Valerian at least has some imagination up its over-the-top and messy sleeves.

I’m not familiar with the French science fiction comics series Valérian and Laureline, created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières, that inspired director/screenwriter Luc Besson (The Family).  From what I hear it remained tremendously popular since it was originally published in 1967 all the way through to its final issue in 2010 so its no wonder that studios interested in selling their film globally would invest in what Besson had in mind.  Even if it tanks at the US box office (which, sadly, it will) it most surely will turn a profit in the international market.

The screening I attended had some major 3D projection issues during the five-minute montage that opens the film, showing the progression of space habitation as the years tick away. Passing by in a blur (literally) the universe evolves to welcome all forms of alien life from around the galaxy.  The generally well-rendered CGI beings that Besson introduces us to first are Avatar-ish chrome domes living in a pastel colored planet that get major feels from pearls pooped out of a cute creature.  I’ll let that last sentence sink in a moment.  Have you recovered?  Let’s move forward.

Just when the planet and its inhabitants are threatened by objects crash landing from sky the film cuts quickly to Valerian (Dane DeHaan, Lawless) who has just awoke in a cold sweat.  Was it all in his head or is he in possession of historical knowledge hidden deep within?  Before we get to that answer Besson makes a costly error out of the gate by awkwardly introducing us to Major Valerian and his partner Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne, Suicide Squad) with a battle of the sexes sparring that would have seemed trivial on Moonlighting. DeHaan and Delevingne have zero chemistry, radiating genial brother-sister admiration much more than any carnal craves.

Valerian and Laureline are mid-mission in a race to obtain a precious element (no, not The Fifth Element) that winds up playing a big part in explaining Valerian’s other-planetary visions.  There’s not enough megabites in this blog to go into details on where Besson takes our plucky hero and heroine but I can tell you that it involves singer Rihanna (Battleship) as a shape shifting blue alien that has Ethan Hawke (Sinister) for a pimp, a race through an underwater world of sea monsters, Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby) strangely voicing a male alien royal, and Herbie Hancock as Valerian and Laureline’s exhausted boss.  To all you Rutger Hauer fans, don’t blink or you’ll miss his barely there cameo.

This film is without a doubt totally cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs but it’s sheer brazen wackiness is what winds up keeping it afloat when Besson’s script falters and its stars stall out.  There’s barely a moment when things are at a standstill and yet the action onscreen is delivered with such fervent fury throughout I was never not entertained in one way or another.  How much you get out of the film is entirely dependent on how much you’re willing to just go with the flow and know that everyone else in the audience thinks its as bizarre as you do.

I was wanting an immersive experience for Valerian so I opted for a seat close to the screen, only to move the back row 20 minutes in when I was started getting seasick.  Besson’s never been a filmmaker that knows what subtle means (I mean did you SEE Lucy?) and in many ways, that’s what helps this one wind up in the Good Bad Movie category.  Laughably overlong at 137 minutes, you’ll have to be in the right frame of mind to like it but if you’re up for a nutso ride into Besson’s candy-colored brain then this is the movie for you.

Movie Review ~ The Magnificent Seven (2016)

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Seven gun men in the old west gradually come together to help a poor village against savage thieves.

Stars: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung Hun Lee, Manuel Garcia Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, Matt Bomer, Billy Slaughter, Vinnie Jones, Peter Sarsgaard

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 132 minutes

TMMM Score: (7.5/10)

Review: I have two things to admit right off the bat. I’ve never seen the original The Magnificent Seven from 1960 or, worse yet, Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, the movie that inspired both films and countless other knockoff Westerns throughout the years. The second admission is that I’ve been wanting Oscar winner Denzel Washington (Flight) to lighten up a bit already…all of his movies are so serious, so steely, so tortured inside that it has me almost dreading every new film he’s headlining even though he’s one of our great working actors today. While Washington doesn’t quite achieve tranquility during the course of this remake, the actor does show some signs of a sense of humor in between the gunfire and exploding dynamite sticks.

The prologue sets the stage. It’s the 1870s and the town of Rose Creek has a problem whose name is Bartholomew Bogue (a typically ratty Peter Sarsgaard, Lovelace). Determined to buy up all the land in the area for 1/10 of what it’s worth, Bogue has staked his claim on Rose Creek and dares anyone to stand his way. Protected by a crooked town sheriff, Bogue and his army of gunslingers draws a line in the sand for the townsfolk; accept his low offer to purchase their plots of earth or suffer deadly consequences. Before the credits even begin, Bogue has struck down several strong-willed citizens (including an actor listed in the opening credits after he’s been killed) and prepares to return in three weeks to start rounding up and kicking out.

Rose Creek needs a savior, that’s why Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett, The Girl on the Train) offers bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Washington) all the town has to offer in exchange for his protection. Taking her up on her proposition partly because he empathizes with her and partly to exorcise his own personal demons, he recognizes he can’t go up against Bogue alone and recruits a sextet of men as he makes his way back to Rose Creek. First up is wise talking gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt, Jurassic World), as good with a gun as he is with a deck of cards. Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke, Boyhood) a longtime friend of Chisolm and former army sharpshooter now making a living off of managing the duels of the deadly Billy Rocks (Byung Hun Lee, I Saw the Devil). Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Cake), a Mexican criminal on Chisolm’s wanted list is given a reprieve if he pitches in while Comanche Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) makes nice with Chisolm by chowing down on the heart of a freshly killed animal. Finally, we have Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio, Sinister) a soft spoken bear of a man that proves a dangerous person to underestimate.

Look, there’s a formula here and it’s shown to have worked for more than a century. Find someone that needs help, gather a rag-tag group of would-be heroes, and then let them loose in a fiery blaze of glory. It helps The Magnificent Seven that the heroes would likely be the bad guys of another movie but find themselves put to better use doing good. Working together they arm the town and stage some Home Alone-style booby traps that are a, ahem, blast.

At 132 minutes, it’s a long film but I found myself responding to it more than I thought I would. I love a good Western and while this won’t be remembered as any kind of classic I found it engaging and entertaining, two things we’ve had a serious lack of in 2016. It takes it’s time and maybe moseys when it should be sprinting but I didn’t seem to mind it and I think it’s largely due to the cast.

Director Antoine Fuqua (Olympus Has Fallen) teams up with Washington for the third time and clearly the two men have worked together enough to develop their own rhythm. Fuqua nudges Washington ever so slightly out of his run of stone-faced champion and gets the actor to feel his inner cowboy. Pratt’s role isn’t quite as challenging, largely being an extension of the good ole boy he’s played before. Hawke, too, turns in a performance that I wasn’t quite expecting. Robicheaux has some ticks and tricks that Hawke takes and runs with…much like D’Onofrio does with his odd, child-like lumberjack of a man. As the lone female, Bennett more than holds her own, stopping just short of going full on Linda Hamilton/Terminator 2 mode as the film reaches its pinnacle.

Pure popcorn entertainment with some great shots of canyons and dust bowls set to a purposeful score by the late James Horner, The Magnificent Seven doesn’t rise to the level of greatness its title implies. Still, there are far worse ways to spend your time at the movies and the cast makes it worth your while.

Movie Review ~ Seymour: An Introduction

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Meet Seymour Bernstein: a beloved pianist, teacher and true inspiration who shares eye-opening insights from an amazing life. Ethan Hawke helms this poignant guide to life.

Stars: Seymour Bernstein, Ethan Hawke

Director: Ethan Hawke

Rated: PG

Running Length: 84 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review:  This sensitive doc from Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) is a good example of how to treat your elders…listen, learn, let them talk.

Famed pianist Seymour Bernstein may not be a household name to most because he hasn’t performed in public for decades, but after a chance encounter with Bernstein at a dinner party the actor became interested in learning more about the life-long New Yorker that imparts his wisdom to his students, his friends, and his contemporaries.

At a trim 84 minutes it’s less a biopic and more of a discussion with biographical context. We hear about Bernstein’s first encounter with music when a piano is brought into his house, which up until that point didn’t even have a radio to listen to.  Over the years his talent became evident, with only his mother fully supporting the musical prodigy her son was becoming.  Growing stage fright kept Bernstein out of the public eye for years, only occasionally playing for anyone outside his small one room apartment just big enough for a piano and pull out bed.

Hawke clearly found a kinship is Bernstein as the actor relays his own burgeoning stage fright these past years.  Perhaps making a film on Bernstein’s life and capturing on film his sage words was a way to exorcise some of those demons that plague many a creative individual.  No matter what the reason, Hawke’s portrait of Bernstein is as delicate as Bernstein’s technique, a technique Hawke shows in several working sessions Bernstein has with his students.  Quick to correct his pupils but just as quick to praise them, his attention to the smallest detail provides great insight into what it takes to achieve his level of musical sophistication.

A treat of a film, if there’s one drawback it’s that there’s no true momentum to be had.  Yes, Bernstein’s an interesting character and I think I could have sat through his entire master class, but the final result is an abridged autobiography conveyed on film.  Still, it’s so short that you can’t help but pay rapt attention and think about the Seymour Bernsteins in your own life.

Movie Review ~ Boyhood

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The Facts:

Synopsis: The life of a young man, Mason, from age 5 to age 18

Stars: Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke 

Director: Richard Linklater

Rated: R

Running Length: 166 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (10/10)

Review:  Director Michael Apted began filming a group of children in England when they were seven years old and has returned every seven years to check-in and see what dreams they have achieved, what losses they have suffered, and what obstacles they’ve overcome.  The last entry is 2012 was 56 Up and my advice is if you leave Richard Linklater’s equally impressive Boyhood wanting something in the same vein but with a pulse all its own and haven’t yet caught Apted’s eight film series to get on that pronto.

The comparisons between Apted’s decades in the making study of the class system in England and Linklater’s more focused following of one boy for twelve years are inevitable and both flourish on their own merits.  What truly bowled me over with Linklater’s three hour opus is that in the age of studios wanting films released faster and faster, he was able to take the time and resources to make this the way he wanted – and that’s something that should be applauded and admired.

It’s a simple set-up, really.  Find one young boy not too self-aware but still grounded and create a world with characters, situations, and ideas that explore how our experiences shape us as we grow.  Add two Hollywood actors that don’t mind a long-haul commitment with no guarantee for success and start filming!

There are so many factors with Boyhood that Linklater (Bernie) just couldn’t have known we he started the film.  Would the boy grow up to resent these yearly visits?  How would he fare on-camera?  What happens if six years in he decided to move to Tibet and take a vow of silence?  What if the Hollywood actors found a different gig that prevented their participation or they grew tired of the unique filming schedule?  Further…what sort of story would be told from year to year?

It’s clear from the finished project that this was a once in a lifetime sort of project and everyone involved knew it.  Yes, the quality of the acting from the boy (Ellar Coltrane) and his sister (Lorelei Linklater, the director’s daughter) waxes and wanes and it’s no surprise to learn Lorelei wanted out after several years because her ambivalence to the material is evident through several years of the process.  Still, there’s a sense of “realness” within a dramatized story that gives the film street cred.

Coltrane’s performance grows more affected with each passing year and having seen the film on two occasions I did cringe both times at some of the line deliveries that come across less as in the moment observances and more as words successfully delivered without much weight behind them.  Still, that glint of curiosity that shines so brightly in the early years never really goes away, making each age more interesting as Coltrane and his character start to come into their own and grow into themselves.

Ethan Hawke (Sinister, and Linklater’s famous trilogy comprised of Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight) plays a good dad and any urge to portray him as a deadbeat or explore why he separated from his wife (Patricia Arquette) is resisted.  He matures right along with his children, moving from the divorced dad with the cool car to a remarried man approaching middle-age with a new baby and mini-van in tow.

Though the film is called Boyhood the heart of the film is found in Arquette’s terrific turn.  We see her go from being a single mother to returning to college in order to complete her education, then into her second marriage to an abusive alcoholic, before moving onto yet another doomed-to-fail-marriage to an army vet.  Through it all her maternal instincts never fade; sometimes she’s the cool mom but mostly she’s the mama bear who puts her children first and herself last in any situation.

Arquette is uniformly excellent throughout the film but goes above and beyond in two scenes at the end of the movie which I believe are worth the price of admission.  It’s in her final scene that she not only sums up the whole point of what Linklater is getting at with striking clarity but also verbalizes a painful truth every parent must feel at one time or another.  It’s a thrilling, Oscar-ready performance from an actress I had previously struggled with liking.

Yes, the running time is over 2 ½ hours but I’ve seen 90 minute films that felt four times longer.  I can’t recommend it higher – the most satisfying of films released in 2014.  And if Arquette doesn’t win an Oscar, I’ll be terribly disappointed.

The Silver Bullet ~ Boyhood

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Synopsis: The life of a young man, Mason, from age 5 to age 18.

Release Date:  July 11, 2014

Thoughts: Way, way, way up on my list of anticipated films of 2014 is Boyhood, director Richard Linklater’s 12 years in the making family drama that follows one boy from childhood to adulthood and all the growing pains along the way.  Though I’m slightly leery at the presence of Patricia Arquette (never been a fan), I’m more comforted that Linklater’s old pal Ethan Hawke (The Purge) is along for the ride.  As they showed in Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight, the director and actor have good instincts together and their continued collaboration is welcome.  It’s an ambitious project to be sure…but don’t forget that Michael Apted has been doing this in his groundbreaking Up series over the last four decades.

Movie Review ~ Before Midnight

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The Facts
:

Synopsis: We meet Jesse and Celine nine years on in Greece. Almost two decades have passed since their first meeting on that train bound for Vienna.

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Director: Richard Linklater

Rated: R

Running Length: 109 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review:  Well here we are…20 years after Before Sunrise was released and 9 years after its sequel added a new chapter to the story of Jesse and Celine.  Though Before Sunrise ended with no real plans for a sequel, the final moments of Before Sunset could be seen as having more room to continue the story should stars Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, and director Richard Linklater (Bernie) want to return down the road.  Turns out that the supposed final chapter was a decade away…and worth the wait.

The two that first met on a train and spent a night in Vienna only to meet up again in Paris are now married with twin girls.  Vacationing in Greece, the film opens as Hawke (The Purge, Sinister) takes his young son from his first marriage to the airport, sending him home to NYC and his mother after a summer with his dad.  Waiting outside is Celine (Delpy) and the film really kicks into gear on the ride home from the airport in a masterful scene done in nearly one long take capturing a conversation between Jesse and Celine.

By now, Delpy and Hawke must have formed an invisible bond that allows dialogue to flow without any hesitation.  Though the dialogue and filming technique may suggest the script was improvised, it’s been said that the opposite was true.  Delpy, Hawke, and Linklater were strict with what they wrote and held each other accountable for the dialogue.  You’d never know it the way Delpy and Hawke deliver their lines…like two people having a conversation in the most naturalistic of styles.

Though I was worried that more secondary characters than ever are introduced in the first half of the film, I was pleased that their presence gave way to such focused dialogue on marriage, love, and relationships.  In different hands the words may have sounded grandiose and lugubrious, more interested in making people sound smart instead of honest…but it all works in a really majestic sort of way.

Unlike the awful This is 40, Before Midnight is able to show the complexities of marriage in a truthful and observant manner.  Jesse and Celine find themselves at a believable crossroads about their future and how Delpy, Hawke, and Linklater work their way toward a final painfully honest and brilliantly executed scene should be richly rewarded.  You rarely get the kind of satisfaction from an ongoing series as you do in Before Midnight.

I watched all three of the Before films in one sitting and I have to say…I highly recommend it.  It’s interesting that Hawke mentions in Before Sunrise what life may be like in 10, 20, years…and then to actually see the actors 10, 20 years later is remarkable.   A fitting conclusion to the story of Jesse and Celine…at least until the next film which I hope comes our way in another 10 years.

Movie Review ~ Before Sunset

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The Facts
:

Synopsis: Nine years after Jesse and Celine first met, they encounter each other again on the French leg of Jesse’s book tour.

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Director: Richard Linklater

Rated: R

Running Length: 80 minutes

TMMM Score: (7.5/10)

Review:  I wanted to see Before Sunset when it was released in 2004 but being the completist that I am and not having seen Before Sunrise, I had to take a pass until I was caught up. The years went by and I never did get to see Before Sunrise until recently…and I was lucky to have this sequel on hand so I could go right from one movie to another.

When Before Sunrise was made I’m not sure any of the people involved even considered that a sequel might be in the cards so it was interesting that stars Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke (The Purge), and director Richard Linklater (Bernie) didn’t feel the story of Celine and Jesse was over and brought the two back together again, nine years later.

Moving the action from a night in Vienna to an afternoon in Paris, this installment finds Jesse (Hawke) on the final stop on his book tour where Celine (Delpy) finds him giving an interview in a bookstore.  His flight back to the US is leaving in a few hours but the two decide to go out for coffee which leads to another chat fest in and around various Paris locales.

Everyone involved has matured in the nine years since the first film was released.  Linklater grew as a filmmaker so he’s able to give the actors enough room to take on long interrupted takes which only serves to enhance to spontaneity of dialogue…that was in fact rigorously scripted and earned Hawke, Delpy, and Linklater an Oscar nomination for adapted screenplay.

The actors have come a long way as well, Delpy in particular.  Gone is the overly fussy actress from the first film and present is a more confident leading lady…perhaps because she’d mastered English more assuredly this time around.  Hawke is no stranger to long monologues or extended dialogue scenes given extensive stage experience.  While Hawke looks about 20 years older in this film, his easy going gift for gab again makes Delpy look even better.

A full 20 minutes shorter than the first film, there’s still a lot of dense material to be had…all of it there to serve the story and free from any flowery exposition that would have read false.  While Celine and Jesse work on writing a new chapter to their tale, audiences are once again swept away thanks to a collective understanding of the intricacies of relationships.  A wise, worthy to be seen film.

Movie Review ~ Before Sunrise

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The Facts
:

Synopsis: A young man and woman meet on a train in Europe, and wind up spending one evening together in Vienna. Unfortunately, both know that this will probably be their only night together.

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Director: Richard Linklater

Rated: R

Running Length: 101 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review:  I remember when Before Sunrise was released on VHS in 1995.  I was working at Mr. Movies and the one copy we received couldn’t stay on the shelves long enough for me to see what all the fuss was about.  When the film cooled off a bit I was able to take it home and give it a look-see because I was trying to expand my film knowledge outside of the latest action flick from Sylvester Stallone.

Well…I’d like to say I watched Richard Linklater’s film the whole way through but in reality I turned it off about ten minutes in.  I wasn’t engaged, I wasn’t moved, and I wasn’t able to appreciate the simplicity of the structure that Linklater (Bernie) and co-writer Kim Krizan had provided.  I’ve actually tried to watch the film several times over the years but still couldn’t quite get it to stick, stopping each attempt around the same time.

It took my urge to see every Oscar nominated film to get me to circle back to Before Sunrise after all these years.  With the latest installment (Before Midnight) being nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, I knew that to complete my task I’d need to man up and give Before Sunrise another fair shake…and this time it finally got its hooks into me.

While most audiences (like 1995 me) would rather stay home than see a film centered on two people walking around Vienna doing little more than talking about their lives, those that do take the leap will find great rewards.  What struck me so much about the film is that for as dialogue heavy as it is, it’s remarkably lithe and less heavy than you’d think.

Most of the credit has to go to stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke (Sinister) who are able to take Linklater and Krizan’s script and make it feel like they’re coming up with the words on the spot.  It’s well-known that Delpy and Hawke helped mold the script and especially Delpy was dissatisfied no credit was given to the actors for what they brought to the finished product.

Hawke is the one that really shines here, though, with Delpy at times feeling like she’s not entirely sure of the words that are coming out of her mouth.  As the two wander around town they meet a few characters that contribute to the plot but aren’t intrusive enough to feel shoe-horned in.  The conversations are generous and interesting with each actor having several moments to shine.

Between a little dip of energy near the end and the aforementioned habit of Delpy feeling a tad out of sorts it’s not a perfect film, however, and I think it runs just ever so slightly on the long side.  Still, it’s heads and tails above most romance films of that era that weren’t equitable in their doling out of smart dialogue to their stars.  Before Sunrise gives both actors their fair share of finely nuanced details, creating a charm hard to duplicate.