Film Roundup (1/2/2019)

Here are some of the latest viewings.

The World Is Yours (Le Monde Ou Rien) (2018)

Director:  Romain Gavras

For some reason, comedy and crime drama seem to go well together with the right story and direction.  This energetic movie from director Romain Gavras borrows from many genres, but has an undeniable originality that separates it from its peers.  The plot:  a neurotic drug peddler (Karim Leklou) wants to get out of the business and open up a chain of food franchises in North Africa.  And (of course) he has to set up one big, final score to have the seed money to do this.  To complicate matters, he has to deal with his overbearing mother (well-played by Isabelle Adjani), and various quirky characters.  There are no deep messages here, but that’s fine.  Director Gavras keeps things moving at a brisk pace, the dialogue is razor-sharp, and nothing feels forced.  See it.


Bird Box (2018)

Director:  Susanne Bier

We’ve been down this road before.  Many, many times before.  This is another one of those apocalypse movies where something decimates the world’s population, and we have to follow the pathetic antics adventures of a group of survivors.  Only this time the premise and the story are so lame that you can’t believe how the movie ever got the thumbs-up to proceed.

The plot:  without any warning or explanation, mysterious entities appear in the skies around the globe.  If you look at them, you turn into a zombie and kill yourself at once.  Now when I say “entities,” I am not talking about anything that looks tangible.  It’s presented to the viewer as a vague, shimmering cloud that vanishes in a second.  The only way to survive is to blindfold yourself and avoid going outdoors.  To make things worse, there are roaming zombies who try to get the terrified survivors to take their blindfolds off.

If all this sounds completely absurd, that’s because it is.  This kind of apocalypse movie has been done before, and far better, by other directors.  The premise is lame, the characters are wooden stereotypes that we care nothing about, and the finale is ridiculous.  The heroine (Sandra Bullock, phoning it in) realizes that she has to make a journey down a river with two small children.  Blindfolded.  So we’re expected to believe that a person can pilot a watercraft down whitewater rapids by just “feeling” her way along.  Yeah, right.  John Malkovich appears in this movie, too, but even his skills can’t save this disappointing failure.


Papillon (2018)

Director:  Michael Noer

This film received decidedly mixed reviews, but I’m going to recommend it.  In fact, I liked this movie.  Why?  This is one of those “hard to explain why I liked it” movies.  Yes, the dialogue could be better, the story has been told before, and the action scenes could have used some work.  But there is just something about this movie that held my interest from beginning to end.  I’ve always been fascinated by dramatic stories of suffering and survival, and maybe that has something to do with it.

The plot:  career thief (aggressively played by Charlie Hunnam) in living it up in Paris in the early 1930s.  He gets framed for murder, and sent away to France’s penal colony on Devil’s Island.  There he meets and bonds with another prisoner who is incarcerated for forgery.  The two of them become co-dependent, and do their best to survive and make escape plans.  The redeeming merit of this movie is that it reminds us about the value of friendship, perseverance through suffering, and the hidden reservoirs of determination that all men have but few actually use.  Charlie Hunnam and his co-star both do a great job, and there is an undeniable chemistry between them.  The tropical scenery is lush and omnipresent, and an atmosphere of suffocating gloom pervades all.  I would guess that almost no viewers in 2018 are even aware that France ever even maintained such hell-holes.

Some stories need to be told, and told again, however imperfectly.



Read more in Pantheon: