Starring: Marion Cotillard, Mattias Schoenaerts, Armand Verdure
Directed by: Jacques Audiard (“A Prophet”)
Written by: Jacques Audiard (“A Prophet”) and Thomas Bidegain (“A Prophet”)
As 2013 continues to parade out its less than stellar early year films, the yearly trend of late releases from 2012 (mostly independent and foreign language) continue to trickle into art house theaters. In the French language “Rust and Bone,” Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard (“La vie en rose”) plays a killer-whale trainer who is involved in a tragic accident that brings her together with a former fighter turned odd job worker (Mattias Schoenaerts) who is focusing to keep his life together after his young son has abruptly entered his life.
Both of the lead performances in “Rust and Bone” are top notch. Schoenaerts, who is likely to be largely unknown to American audiences, turns in a solid, albeit subtle performance. He’s able to deliver lines with ease and bring a strong sense of emotion when the role calls for it. The true star of the film is Cotillard. In playing someone who has just undergone a traumatic injury, Cotillard is brilliant at emoting sadness. There is so much pain behind her gazes and stares in the scenes where it appears as if she has just given up. It’s a very bold performance in which she could have very easily slid into an Oscar nomination.
The most impressive element of “Rust and Bone” has to be the direction from Jacques Audiard. While perhaps not reaching the epic proportions of his 2009 Oscar nominated film “A Prophet,” Audiard brings his very unique style and elevates everything from the screenplay forward. Audiard has a certain way of keeping a film grounded and having a keen eye for the raw sensibilities of things. Scenes in which there is both physical and emotional grit and squalor are shown without pulling any punches. Along with that, Audiard can also be visually mesmerizing such as the portions of the film involving the killer whales, both prior to and after her accident. Along with that, Audiard is able to keep the narrative driving forward, ultimately introducing new wrinkles into an already complex relationship. Without question, “Rust and Bone” is one of the best-directed films of the year.
As a whole, the construction of “Rust and Bone” is quite simple. It’s a character study about two people who have been crippled both emotionally and physically. The narrative, while strong enough to keep the film moving, is ultimately secondary to watching a fascinating, but strange relationship go through trials and tribulations. Along with Audiard and without divulging too many details integral to the plot, major kudos need to be given to the special effects team for their amazing work in the film. France chose the very good and extremely crowdpleasing “The Intouchables” as their Best Foreign Language film submission and ultimately did not receive a nomination. Although the lack of a nomination for Cotillard’s performance is perhaps telling, one wonders if France would have had better luck submitting the stronger, but more alienating film.
Starring: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy
Directed by: Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”)
Written by: Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”) and Jonathan Nolan (“The Dark Knight”)
In full scope, “The Dark Knight Rises,” the third and final installment of director Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, feels epic. From its majestic production value to its incredible IMAX-worthy set pieces, Gotham City has never looked so grandiose. Look beyond the technical and artistic achievements of this inevitable summer blockbuster and there are flaws. Despite the narrative’s overall maturation over the last seven years, Nolan has lost sight of just how 2005′s “Batman Begins” and 2008′s “The Dark Knight” successfully redefined the comic-book movie through intelligent design. Here, the bloated 165-minute superhero marathon is frustrating, especially with a script embracing a diluted story about the current financial crisis instead of actually entertaining moviegoers.
Picking up eight years after the last film ended, billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has gone into exile after the death of Harvey Dent. Wayne’s retirement, however, is only temporary and Batman reemerges when a hulky mercenary known as Bane (Tom Hardy) marches into Gotham with plans to sever the city’s economic lifeline, thus causing civil unrest. As Bane, Hardy joins the cast with big clown shoes to fill after Heath Ledger won an Oscar posthumously for his role as the rageful Joker. Sadly, Bane is better suited for a pro-wrestling ring than as a substantial villain with real purpose. New to the franchise are Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman, although the name never comes up), a saucy jewel thief who fights alongside the caped crusader, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt who plays rookie cop John Blake, the most interesting character of the DC Comics lot.
Where the Batman franchise goes post-Nolan remains to be seen, but whoever takes the reigns has a tough act to follow — even if this final chapter doesn’t necessarily reach its full potential.
Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard
Directed by: Woody Allen (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”)
Written by: Woody Allen (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”)
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you had been born in another time period? Imagine experiencing the Renaissance in the early 16th century or witnessing the birth of Hollywood’s silent film era in the late 1880s.
The idea is something three-time Oscar-winning filmmaker Woody Allen (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) experiments with in his new film “Midnight in Paris,” a smartly-written, whimsical romantic comedy that just so happens to include a charming little time-traveling storyline that fits in wonderfully.
In “Midnight in Paris,” Owen Wilson (“Marley & Me”) stars as Gil, an American screenplay writer and self-described “Hollywood hack,” who travels to France with his boorish fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents and ends up going on an adventure on his own. Gil enjoys Paris well enough, but he wonders what it would’ve been like to be there during the Roaring 20s when art and literature were at a historical peak.
When Gil decides he no longer wants to hang out with Inez and her snooty friends (Michael Sheen plays a know-it-all intellect to perfection), he decides to take in Paris by himself by going on a late-night stroll through the city. In a magical and Cinderellaeque twist, Gil steps into a mysterious car at the stroke of midnight and is somehow transported back in time to the 1920s where he meets the like of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Pablo Picasso, all of whom inspire his own work as an aspiring novelist.
The time traveling scenario happens every night at the same time and Gil takes full advantage of his newfound friends. He even gets writer Gerturude Stein (Kathy Bates) to read over his own manuscript and give him some priceless constructive criticism. During his nightly trips back to the era (the time-traveling scenario happens every night and every night Gil somehow returns home without explanation), Gil ends up meeting one of Picasso’s mistresses (Marion Cotillard), a French socialite who also wishes she could have been born in another era, specifially the Belle Epoque.
As picturesque as most of Allen’s past work that embraces particular cities like New York and Barcelona, “Midnight in Paris” is a refreshing fantasy that takes being inspired to a whole new level. It might not reach the greatness of some of Allen’s classics, but “Paris” easily arouses the artist’s passion in all of us.
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz
Directed by: Rob Marshall (“Chicago”)
Written by: Michael Tolkin (“Changing Lanes”) and Anthony Minghella (“Cold Mountain”)
It’s nowhere near his 2002 Academy Award-winning film “Chicago,” but Rob Marshall manages to get as much out of Michael Tolkin and Anthony Minghella’s script as he possibly can. While the musical numbers of Kate Hudson, Fergie, and Penelope Cruz are quite good, the rest of the cast’s singing and dancing contributions are unmemorable (Judi Dench is one of the greatest living actresses today, but I never want to hear karaoke again). Overall, it’s a passable musical because of the choreography and some of the catchier tunes, but “Nine” doesn’t live up to its Oscar-grubbing hype as well as it promised.
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard
Directed by: Michael Mann (“Collateral”)
Written by: Michael Mann (“Heat”), Ronan Bennett (“Lucky Break”), and Ann Biderman (“Primal Fear”)
The scintillating cast may be blinding at first glance in director Michael Mann’s new gangster flick “Public Enemies,” but even the star power of Johnny Depp and Christian Bale can’t save the era piece from making a surprisingly ordinary entrance into the genre.
While all the style and technical work is masterful, there a little something missing between the lines of the 140-minute tribute to Chicago’s crime wave of the 1930s that most people would notice if it wasn’t for all the intense shootouts. Who knew that when Johnny Depp says, “Let’s go to Chicago and make some money,” that’s really all they were going to do?
Set four years into the Great Depression, bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) has just broken out of prison with a group of men who will help him rob more banks. Dillinger starts off enigmatic and screenwriters Michael Mann, Ronan Bennett, and Ann Biderman make sure he stays that way for the entire film. As a matter of fact, all we really find out about Dillinger is that he leads a spontaneous life, can handle a Tommy gun with the best of them, and is extremely slick with the ladies. Dillinger might have been an icon, but “Public Enemies” seems fine in simply promoting his cool factor as the basis to which he is remembered the most. There a sense of the loneliness that director Mann should have been more capable of exposing, but that character trait is left undiscovered until the finale when there not much left to say.
Despite his character’s shortcomings, Depp is the center of this show and delivers as much as the script allows. The same can’t be said about Christian Bale and Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard (“La vie en rose”) whose characters, Agent Mevlin Purvis and Dillinger’s love interest Billie Frechette, are sorely underwritten. It’s not their fault. Their motivation to pursue Dillinger from a criminal and personal aspect never amounts to more than a few systematic scenes, which falls on the shoulders of screenwriters once again.
The writer’s biggest fault comes from skimming over the emotional impact in one of the most emotional times in U.S. history. And while the era and setting are very convincing (costume designer Collen Atwood should be getting some recognition by year’s end) nothing else develops around the picturesque scenes other than more bullet holes.
If you go into this film like Dillinger would – scene-by-scene without worrying about what is around the corner – “Public Enemies” could be a fairly interesting biopic minus the historical inaccuracies. But tie everything together and the film is deeply flawed and disappointing. Just when you’re hoping Mann will throw everything on the table, he folds without an ounce of expression.