Tag Archives: France

Midnight in Paris

In this charming romantic comedy, legendary director Woody Allen focuses his lens on an engaged young couple whose experiences traveling together in Paris make them begin to question the kind of life they want to live.

Rating: 8 out of 10

There are few scribes like Woody Allen. And while you can point to his typical formula in this film — his constant scratching at the subject of love and finding happiness — there is a wealth of imagination and creativity. He certainly hasn’t lost his touch.

Allen wrangles an immensely talented cast with a script that weaves time travel, humor, romance, and beautiful cinematography of Paris. It’s absolutely sublime.  Owen Wilson plays a typical Allen character, a writer in a relationship he’s not really satisfied with in search of a deeper existence. Rachel McAdams plays his fiancee, a tart who doesn’t really like Wilson’s artsy, eyes-open-wide view of the world. At midnight, Wilson takes a stroll and is somehow transported back to the ’30s. While he’s there, he meets the legends of the time in writing and music, along with Adriana, a flapper girl played by the enchanting Marion Cotillard.

What follows is a series of Wilson popping back and forth between decades, trying to figure out his relationship, pursue Adriana, all while working on a novel and dealing with his crazy, annoying future in-laws. And in the background, that constant yearning for a greater, more meaningful life. This is a wonderful script by Allen, who won the Academy Award for his efforts. “Midnight in Paris” stands tall in Allen’s collection of incredible films.

The Illusionist

Oscar-nominated for Best Animated Feature, this wistful tale follows the fading fortunes of aging illusionist Tatischeff , who’s forced to perform in obscure venues as his act is eclipsed by the growing popularity of rock bands. He gets an emotional lift, though, from a wide-eyed girl named Alice, who thinks he possesses magic powers. But Tatischeff’s “sleight of hand” efforts to impress her with expensive gifts may lead to his financial undoing.

Rating: 4 out of 10

“L’illusionniste” is sad. That’s the way I felt the whole movie. Sure there’s a flash of the fun times the magician had when he had a successful act in Paris, but really it’s about his decline.

I spent the whole movie waiting for the change, for something good to happen. It didn’t. On his way down, the illusionist spends some time in Scotland where he befriends a young girl, Alice. I thought this was where some happiness would come in. But Alice just seems selfish and unappreciative of his generosity.

Sometimes I enjoy movies like this, a story that is linear seems more honest and life doesn’t always have a happy ending. So maybe it was my mood or maybe I was waiting for some of the silliness that was in their previous film, “The Triplets of Belleville,” but it just felt a little empty.


Quentin Dupieux directs this inventive twist on low-rent revenge flicks, which follows a car tire named Robert that rolls through the desert Southwest using its strange psychic powers to blow up birds, bunnies, human beings and more. But when Robert spies a gorgeous woman motoring down the highway, he decides to follow her and take a chance on love. This gleefully over-the-top black comedy stars Cecelia Antoinette and Thomas F. Duffy.

Rating: 4 out of 10

I so badly wanted to love this movie. I saw the trailer for it and it seemed unbelievably quirky and weird enough to work. Unfortunately, the results are a mixed bag.

The tire actually has a personality in this film. It falls somewhere between curious and ill-tempered. In fact, I’ll go on record and admit that its “performance” in this film, through the handwork of solid special effects, is better than any acting I’ve ever seen out of Will Smith or Ashton Kutcher. Imagine if your entire career could be outdone by an inanimate object. In fact, Ashton Kutcher might actually qualify as an inanimate object, soooo…..anyway, I digress.

The film definitely works when the tire is rolling around and running into objects, people and animals. The tire either decides to see how it works or blow it up. I suppose that’s all you could really get from a homicidal tire. That’s really half the movie. The other half is this oddball concept that everything happening with the tire and everyone around it is a movie. There is then an “audience” that sits in the hills with binoculars and views the events unfold. Supposedly, all the people (minus the “audience”) are just actors putting on a show. This doesn’t work at all. It feels completely separate and diminishes any fun we’re having as we watch a tire roll around killing everything.

I’m not going to lie. I laughed my ass off at a few of the scenes. But, because of the 2nd part of the movie with the fake audience, it robs some of the humor. It’s a shame, too, because the killer tire concept is enough. Once you accept that, there was a lot for the tire to do and people to run into. How about it meets another tire and they go on the lamb together? How about the tire gets torn up and manages to get into a Goodyear store where he gets repaired? Or, how about it ends up at a NASCAR track where it teams up with all the other tires and starts killing the fans? You see, there was a lot you could have done with it. But, sometimes you can try to be too quirky…..


When impish gamine Amélie (Audrey Tautou), who lives alone, finds a long-hidden trove of toys behind a baseboard in her apartment, she’s inspired to repatriate the items, an impulse of generosity that sparks more benevolent acts. A celebration of life and love, French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Oscar-nominated charmer stresses the importance of small wonders that surround us, if only we paused to look.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Amelie is a sweet natured film with a big heart. The main character, played so eloquently by Audrey Tautou, is the type of sweet-natured girl you can’t help but fall in love with.

It has a simple enough premise: Amelie finds an old box of heirlooms from 40 years ago inside the wall of her apartment. She decides to find the owner and return it to him. If she can succeed, she will try to become a professional do-gooder. Now, this works only because the world that director Jean-Pierre Jeunet has created is not the one we inhabit every day. It’s seen through the lens with exaggerated colors and dream-like sequences to create an adult fairy tale. Cynicism is an outcast here and hope springs eternal. Realistic? No way. But, do we really need reality in our films all the time? I like the idea of seeing the best of humanity, no matter how outrageous it may seem to some. Also, Amelie is not always an angelic do-gooder. There are some very funny moments where she gets back at different bullies she runs into in her life.

So, if I enjoyed the film, why am I giving it only a 7? Well, first off, anything 7 or higher is something I recommend. But, Amelie’s script is not as good as its visual style. Once Amelie starts being a “do-gooder” the script doesn’t know where to go. The situations where she starts to help people are less imaginative and it pushes towards a standard romantic comedy. By the end, Amelie gets what she wants and it appears her days of helping others falls by the wayside. It’s a shame. too. because it had such promise for the first 60 minutes.

Five Movies to Snuggle Up to on Valentine’s Day


This is not my list of the best romantic films of all times. This is simply a list of some great romantic movies for you and a loved one to snuggle up to with a big bowl of buttery popcorn and watch on a chilly Saint Valentine’s Day evening. Here’s hoping you have a romantic day full of love!

Say Anything: This is one of the best teen movies from the 80s, and it’s just a heart-warming, romantic story of the lovable loser who falls for the perfect girl — a valedictorian. Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) and high school goody-goody Diane Court (Ione Skye) are threatened when Diane’s overly possessive, disapproving father (John Mahoney) interferes with their relationship. With a prized scholarship to study abroad hanging in the balance, Diane must find a way to make both men happy. Writer-director Cameron Crowe steers this 1980s teen flick into instant-classic territory. I highly recommend!

Amélie:This is one of the most darling films I have ever seen. If you don’t mind subtitles — as I’m sure many of you don’t — then this is a movie you may want to grab. It’s visually stunning with a truly unique director in Jean-Pierre Jeunet ( A Very Long Engagement), a fantastic romance story that unfolds in unusual and gripping ways, and it’s just pure fun. Definitely a winner.

A Very Long Engagement: This is another Jean-Pierre Jeunet film. What can I say? The guy makes great romantic films. Audrey Tautou stars as Mathilde, a young Frenchwoman who vows to find out what happened to her missing fiancé (Gaspard Ulliel) during World War I. He appears to have died after a court-martial, but she needs to know for sure. As she looks for the truth, she discovers unexpected things about herself and the people she meets along the way. It has some heart ache along the way, but what great love doesn’t?

Forest Gump: This is one of my favorite movies of all time. Most certainly in the top 25. It has everything you could want in a romantic film — a love that’s sparked from childhood that drives a character in everything he does through some of the most incredible experiences any man could have. There is nothing wrong with this movie. It’s simply flawless, and Forest’s innocence and love of someone who, on the surface, is beyond broken after so much tragedy befalls her, is touching. We all could learn to love like he does. It’s a wonderful movie, and a great choice for Valentine’s Day.

Slumdog Millionaire: I hadn’t seen this film when it won best picture. I’m always skeptical of films that become critic’s darlings and run away with all the trophies. This is not one of the best films I’ve ever seen, but it’s a fantastic date movie. It’s got a nice romantic plot with another character who endures incredibly terrible things all the while trying to find a long-lost love. I think it’s true that distance makes the heart grow fonder. Love isn’t worth having if it’s not worth fighting for.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

High Tension

Students Marie (Cécile de France) and Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco) have no idea of the horrors that await them when they head off to a remote country home to study for their upcoming exams and a psychopathic stranger attacks, tying up Alex and taking her away. It’s up to Marie to save her friend — but first, she must figure out what’s really going on. Philippe Nahon co-stars in this twisty-turny tale of terror.

Rating: 7 out of 10

This is a movie for horror fans. I’m a pretty big horror fan, but this was too violent for me at times and it has an ending, which I won’t give away, that is a bit disappointing.But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a fun, leave-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat horror movie that was shot with a great eye for suspense and terror. There are huge sequences of this film that are riveting that involve characters who compel you to care for them while they are tracked down by one of the most fiendish and evil bad guys that have come across the horror scene in a long time.

The gore factor comes in thanks to Giannetto De Rossi, who among horror fans is a class makeup artist. He’s got ties to more than 50 movies, most of which are horror flicks. I mention this because horror fans love the stuff. I’m not a fan of gore. I mean, it has its place, of course. But is gore scary? I find suspense far more scary. I was most scared when the killer is slowly going from room to room in the opening of the film, hunting down family members. The killing was just more gross, not really scary. Give me “Halloween” over “Bad Taste” any day. But I guess this is an argument among horror fans.

High Suspense is a solid horror flick. It’s not for everyone, but I enjoyed it. If you’re squeamish, I’d skip this one.

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Students Marie (Cécile de France) and Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco) have no idea of the horrors that await them when they head off to a remote country home to study for their upcoming exams and a psychopathic stranger attacks, tying up Alex and taking her away. It’s up to Marie to save her friend — but first, she must figure out what’s really going on. Philippe Nahon co-stars in this twisty-turny tale of terror.

A Town Called Panic

Tag along for the small-town adventures of plastic toys Cowboy, Indian and Horse when they buy 50 million bricks, setting into motion a crazy chain of events at their rambling rural home. Now trekking across distant lands, they end up in another world pludged under water in this film based on the Belgian television series of the same name.

Rating: 8 out of 10

I’m sure you’re like me in at least one way — you’re not watching a lot of Belgian television.

But you don’t have to speak French or be a film addict to appreciate this film, which has charm and character much larger than the toy figurines that inhabit this film’s world.

We see the world through the eyes of Horse, Indian and Cowboy, three best friends who live in a house in a quirky village. It’s Horse’s birthday, and by mistake, Indian and Cowboy order 50 million bricks instead of the 50 they needed to build a barbecue they were going to give him as a present. In order to hide the bricks, they stack the them in a giant pile on top of the house, ultimately destroying it and sending the threesome on a creative adventure through the ocean and other worlds all while surrounded by funny characters and bizarre situations.

The stop-motion animation is by no means as smooth and slick as “Wallace and Grommet.” Think more along the lines of 1950s “The Gumby Show.” But what it lacks in sleek looks it makes up for in bright, humorous writing. I suggest this for fans of animation. Others might be put off by the odd, sometimes shrill, French voiceover work and what some would consider shoddy animation.

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