Friday, October 1, 2010

Film Round-Up for October

In this edition of The Film Round-Up, you're in for a load of treats. You want great performances from talented young actresses? Got 'em. Hankering for a great romantic comedy? It's right here. Honestly, this was the best crop of movies I've seen in a long time, though it would have been nice if "Easy A" with the kick-ass Emma Stone (pictured) hadn't faltered in the end.

As always, these reviews previously appeared in "ICON" and are reprinted with permission. (Thanks, Trina.)

Heartbreaker (Dir: Pascal Chaumeil). Starring: Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Julie Ferrier, François Damiens, Héléna Noguerra, Andrew Lincoln, Jacques Frantz. For the right price and the right reasons, Alex Lippi—suave, handsome, and indisputably French—will seduce a woman so thoroughly that she will leave whatever loser she is seeing. Alex excels at his job, but his playboy lifestyle forces him to accept a profitable, but impossible assignment. Posing as the target's bodyguard, he must convince this gorgeous, successful bride-to-be (Paradis) to dump her apparently perfect fiancé (Lincoln). What's worse, Alex has only five days to complete the assignment. As predictable as the sunset, but you won't care. Duris and Paradis are almost comically sexy, the script is frothy and funny, and the sun-drenched Monaco scenery is enchanting. Perfectly packaged, impeccably paced, and full of good performances, including Ferrier (a master of disguise) and Damiens (a high-tech doofus with misguided acting aspirations), who nearly steal the movie as Alex's married colleagues. Heartbreaker is irresistible cinematic comfort food. If it doesn't put a hop in your step, check your pulse. (Note: Not to be confused with Heartbreakers, the underrated 2001 Sigourney Weaver/Jennifer Love Hewitt con artist comedy.) [NR] ****

Never Let Me Go. Dir: Mark Romanek). Starring: Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, Isobel Meikle-Small, Ella Purnell, Charlie Rowe, Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins. Young caretaker Kathy (Mulligan) is reunited with her two best friends from boarding school, Tommy (Garfield) and Ruth (Knightley), under less than celebratory circumstances. In the name of medical progress, all three have been bred as donors. Former lovers Tommy and Ruth have already been plucked, while Kathy, a kind of hospice worker for these unfortunate souls, is on deck herself for donation. Their story is told in flashbacks from the 1970s to the 1990s, with Kathy serving as a somber and heartbroken narrator. A most unusual coming-of-age story that resonates more than the conventional models, Romanek (One Hour Photo) and writer Alex Garland let the drama slowly seep in, nixing sci-fi undertones and emotional bellowing. These are characters sucked into the inevitable flow of their lives, just like everyone else, which gives Never Let Me Go a powerful (and relatable) poignancy. The three adult leads are very good, especially Mulligan. Like she did in An Education, and without a trace of effort, the talented young actress reminds us of someone we know. [R] ****

Easy A (Dir: Will Gluck). Starring: Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Aly Michalka, Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci, Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow, Malcolm McDowell. Thanks to cell phones and the social network, a little white lie about a weekend fling immediately turns 17-year-old nobody Olive Penderghast (Stone) into a scandalous celebrity at her California high school. Olive then uses her newly acquired reputation (and only that) to "deflower" desperate male classmates, a benevolent act that leads to unforeseen consequences and forces her to set the record straight via Webcam. Stone (Superbad), in a star-making performance, is whip-smart, cheeky, and sexy sarcastic as the beleaguered heroine. So is everyone else, from her longtime crush (Badgley, who looks like he's in his tenth senior year) to her parents (Tucci and Clarkson) to her favorite teacher (Church). That lack of variety, teamed with more tired observations on the religious right and the movie's leeching of Brat Pack nostalgia, eventually negates the movie's bouncy energy and biting humor. Teens, however, should love every second of it as well as Stone's smart, plucky work. [PG-13] ***

Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 (Dir: Jean-François Richet). Starring: Vincent Cassel, Ludivine Sagnier, Mathieu Amalric, Samuel Le Bihan, Gérard Lanvin, Olivier Gourmet. Conclusion to the two-part biography of Jacques Mesrine (Cassel), the famed French criminal/escape artist/charmer, takes place in the second half of the 1970s. At this point, Mesrine has become a major celebrity, and not just because he is France's biggest public enemy. He's all about cultivating a persona. He writes a book in prison, conducts a scandalous interview with a major magazine, and pretends his criminal acts have political significance. And he gains a super-hot girlfriend (Sagnier), whom he showers with expensive gifts after kidnapping a real estate tycoon. The ride is exhilarating, but it doesn't last for long. Exciting, well-filmed tale gets a big boost thanks to Cassel's towering, magnetic performance and a script that manages to make Mesrine mesmerizing without glamorizing his lifestyle. One thing is clear: If the police hadn't gunned down Mesrine in 1979, his massive ego wouldn't have kept him alive for too long. [R] ***

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